08 Oct 18

What is the biggest threat?

A journalist asked me this question at the end of an engaging interview I gave recently when discussing the DarkMatter Group strategy focusing on “smart and safe digital” (our motto). The overall context of our conversation was the accelerated imperative for the iterative approach to digital transformation and the commensurate requirement for the much-needed resilience in cyber security.

The immediate answer I gave was the “human factor”. She was surprised, and I didn’t offer any Socratic explanation beyond these two words. We agreed to leave it at that, and follow-up on this topic in a future conversation.

So is the human factor the biggest threat in an era of smart and safe digital? I would posit that it is the case. In an environment where digital is transforming and bettering the way we do things, and challenging along its path the status quo, our immunity to change is our most formidable enemy (Pogo was right).

I often refer to this condition as the predicament of incumbency. Nowhere it is more visible than in institutional settings, public and private, where self-preservation is pervasive. Counterintuitively, this very same goal which should serve as an incentive for dynamic evolution becomes an insurmountable impediment for change.

In such a scenario, digital potentials are dwarfed by analogue inertia until the needed digital disruptions come both from outside and from within. This is when incumbent institutions are compelled to attempt their semblance of accelerated transformation before they realize that all their belated efforts amount to too-little-too-late.  And at the same time, the generation accustomed to leveraging digital means to achieve things enters the work force and transforms from within.

In the realm of cyber security, the predicament of incumbency is manifested by the narrow thinking of defending the digital perimeter of an institution through massive fortifications. This often results in a static fortress model which is at odds with the dynamic and distributed nature of cyber risks. Using a historical analogy, this would equate to defending a strategic position through a Maginot Line like model in a 21st century always-evolving warfare scenario.

The biggest threat is indeed the human factor, but it can be also the biggest strength. This is when incumbency is replaced by ingenuity, deterministic thinking is replaced by evolutionary foresight, and binary decision making is replaced by evolutionary initiatives. This could be, in fact, the topic of my next conversation with the journalist.

About the author

Karim Sabbagh is CEO at DarkMatter.

 


By Karim Sabbagh
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