The global spread of COVID-19 has affected individuals and organizations on a scale a capacity that is unprecedented. It has changed the ways in which we communicate, shop, exercise and especially the way we work and earn a living. It is no surprise that most IT leaders have been forced to shift their goals in 2020 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. In this article, we will explore some of the ways CIOs have approached the changing business world.

The Report

Hitachi ID, an identity and access management provider, recently published a report that surveyed 131 high-level executives. The report, published August 11, indicates that CIOs, and their organizations, have been forced to alter their priorities from the beginning of their year to accommodate the changing cybersecurity landscape. Thus, early initiatives that were set into place, in 2020, have since been forced to shift as the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak forced most economies into nationwide lockdowns and self-quarantining.

The Numbers

Putting things into perspective, 70% of respondents acknowledge changing not only short-term but long-term priorities for the remainder of 2020. Perhaps unsurprising, 89% of those surveyed now hold cybersecurity as their number one priority. It is worth noting that 72% of respondents actually placed cybersecurity as a long-term goal. With the rapid migration to the web, cybersecurity itself has never been as important as it will be in the ‘new normal.’ Retail, finance, education, regardless of the industry, the way we conduct business is changing at a pace all organizations must address to stay ahead of cybercrime.

Right behind the cybersecurity initiative, 82% of respondents have placed significant priority on remote enablement of all staff in 2020. As in the case of cybersecurity, the ‘new normal’ demands a heavy focus on providing staff with remote access in order to keep up with the demands of everyday business operations. However, with this migration of the workforce, comes a host of security concerns putting a significant strain on IT staff as discussed in previous Packetlabs blog articles.

Other priorities mentioned in 2020 report include an improved customer service experience (52%), innovation (46%), move to cloud (46%), update legacy infrastructure (42%) and hiring (15%). At first, second and third glance, it should be obvious that the ordering of CIO priorities is arguably entirely based in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Delving further into the specifics of the report, 86% of respondents acknowledge a desire to improve security standards across their environment and 80% wish to improve flexibility for remote and on-site workers.

The Downsides

Expectedly, with focus moving towards the priority of cybersecurity and supporting a workforce, priority towards other organization efforts are moved lower. Of the CIOs surveyed, there has been a significant reduced focus on hardware refreshes, on-site infrastructure, security awareness, training and hiring. Granted, the focus has only shifted, and rightly so, however, not to worry; we can expect to see these items reclaim their priority as organizations adapt to new stressors.

Focus on Identity and Access Management

In an effort to realize their cybersecurity goals, CIOs are putting a strong focus on identity and access management (43%), endpoint security (34%) and security awareness training (17%). This order of priority acknowledges that most cybercriminals do not actually “break in” but rather unlock the environment because they put much of their initial efforts into attaining the “keys.”

The coronavirus pandemic has seen cybercriminals place their focus on stolen credentials, social engineering, business email compromise and phishing attacks. As mentioned, with most workers being forced into remote access, this approach makes sense from a malicious party’s perspective. As a result, where most business organizations may have held identity and access management initiatives in a long-term plan, it’s now become priority number one.

As discussed in previous Packetlabs articles, CISOs and CIOs have been increasing budgets in recent years with the realization that cybersecurity is absolutely critical for protecting the bottom line. Half of the respondents outlined in the survey indicate that in order to pay for these new priorities, budget increases are a must. About one-third of respondents take aim at a 5% increase, 13% are looking for a 5-10% increase and nearly 10% of those surveyed push for a budgetary increase in excess of 10%.

Summary

The coronavirus pandemic continues to impact all facets of our lives and it is up to us to act to address the concerns presented by the new normal. CIOs have their work cut out for them with security cited as their leading priority by 87% of those surveyed. At Packetlabs, we realize the value of our services and regardless of your cybersecurity concerns, we’re always happy to help in any way we can. Should you have any questions or concerns about the impacts on your business, please contact us to discuss how we can help.