We've been living in the dizzying early stages of the next Industrial Revolution since the mid-'90s: from the PC to the early Web to "e-business," to the iPhone to the modern Web to the cloud to SaaS, and so on. Innovation came at us fast, and it keeps coming at an increasing rate — we're always on, always looking over the horizon for what's next.
As we stand back from the vantage of our new socially distanced, physically slower present it's a good time for those of us in IT to take stock of where we've been and where we're going. The unrelenting pressure-packed pace of business has pushed us to move ever faster. And, in large measure, we've met the need for speed — in part thanks to evolution of technologies like cloud and SDN as well as processes like DevOps and continuous delivery.
However, even before COVID-19, the view was a bit different for those of us who have carved our careers on the security side of IT. We struggle to keep pace with IT innovation in the face of ever-increasing numbers of cyberattacks and sophisticated adversaries. Our security operations centers are overwhelmed in a sea of alerts while we can't find enough qualified practitioners to stem the tide. Well-intentioned regulations push us to spend an increasing amount of our budgets on checking boxes to help us comply but not necessarily stay safe.
In short, IT became agile but security did not. Then the pandemic hit, which put our situation into stark relief.
Overnight, we went from a 10% to 20% remote workforce to more than 90% remote. In a hot second, business continuity became something we did, not something we met about. Peter was robbed and Paul was paid as we diverted budget, changed priorities, and stood up VPNs and reconfigured networks to allow remote access to our critical systems.
In a few frenetic weeks, we put many assumptions to the test and learned a lot. Many of our legacy on-premises applications simply aren't elastic enough to support this new remote workforce. Our massive overnight changes shed new light on our security's worst enemy — human error — as system misconfigurations skyrocketed to record highs, leaving us exposed. Predictably, bad actors saw opportunity in the pandemic and took advantage.
Now what? As the weeks turn to months, it's increasingly clear that there is no going back. As Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, recently noted, "We've seen two years of digital transformation in two months."
Many enterprises have begun implementing the IT infrastructure and security posture to operate effectively in the new world order. There is now broad acknowledgement that the new normal in security must be both hardened and agile — not just to address black swan events like COVID-19, but to finally catch up with the transformation that was already underway.
We will see massive acceleration in cloud adoption to enable application elasticity and to reap the economies of scale associated with outsourcing core compute infrastructure. While we will live in a hybrid world for many years to come, we should expect more enterprises to become cloud-first.
We will also see increasing demand for agility in security. Boards and business executives will demand it. The answer here relies on both cloud and automation. Cloud will provide elasticity and economies of scale, while automation will drive efficiency and responsiveness. Real-time visibility of actionable information will go from buzzword to requirement quickly as security teams increasingly seek leverage from automation.
In short, the future of security will be more responsive, more agile, and more automated.
COVID-19 exposed our soft, inelastic, and rigid underbelly of enterprise IT. But we will emerge more resilient and more agile. We'll be better prepared for the next global shock. Perhaps more importantly, our new normal will be a stronger one.