A storm brewing in the clouds?

Balancing cybersecurity risk with access to relevant and real-time data insights.
Image: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

In 2021 Verizon’s Data Breach Investigations Report showed that for the first time ever, cloud security breaches surpassed those involving on-premises IT assets. At 73% of total incidents, the number showed a massive jump from the previous year’s 27%.

As more and more companies move to the cloud, the question should be asked whether cybersecurity concerns are jeopardising the assumed benefits of software-, infrastructure- and platform-as-a-service.

In its recent white paper on the rise of ‘the digital CFO’ (chief financial officer), global enterprise software company Sage shares research which shows that many finance leaders and their teams are worried about data protection and cybercrime.

And with reason.

The last five years had some thoroughly publicised cloud data breaches, including the likes of Alibaba in 2019 and LinkedIn last year, caused by misconfigured cloud servers and the hacker practice of data scraping.

However, some experts argue that moving to the cloud can actually limit your vulnerability to cybersecurity breaches. One reason cited is that the cloud players, think Microsoft Azure, often have far bigger budgets to put towards security than any of the smaller businesses that tap into the cloud for solutions.

The Sage report also shows an increase in respondents’ level of comfort with cloud security. In 2020, two thirds of respondents said they believed cloud-based systems were secure. In the latest report, 88% of respondents who already use the cloud say their systems are more secure than before.

That said, Covid-19 and the prevalence of remote work could put companies at risk, as workers tend to pick up bad cyber-security habits in their home offices (along with more relaxed dressing habits).

UK- and US-based security firm Tessian recently released a report that showed 56% of senior IT technician respondents felt that employees at home were putting their organisations at risk. Interestingly, 39% of remote-working employee respondents admitted to this – agreeing that their cyber-security practices were sub-par. These respondents also admitted that they kept their home-based cybersecurity mistakes, such as clicking on phishing emails, a secret out of fear of the repercussions. More than a third admitted to finding “security workarounds” while working from home.

Jordaan Burger, vice president of finance for Sage Africa, Middle East and Asia-Pacific, believes the benefits provided by cloud-based software solutions like Sage Intacct outweigh the risk; in fact, he believes such solutions add to a more secure environment.

Burger argues that the single source code, which sits in the cloud and is used by all customers, allows for any vulnerabilities to be patched quickly and efficiently.

“Because all users are always on the latest version, upgrading security and addressing gaps becomes seamless,” he says. Prior to joining Sage, Burger spent four years as financial director of a cybersecurity firm.

“Data security and cybercrime concerns among finance leaders have been compounded over the last two years by increased remote working and online customer engagement,” continues Burger. “Finding the right cloud solutions to balance the access and insight that is required by the democratisation of data, while keeping it as secure as it can be, has become imperative.”

He feels that embracing the cloud brings up-to-date security and software, takes care of data back-up and disaster recovery, boosts productivity, and gives access to world-class infrastructure and skill. In addition, it brings much needed strategic value for finance leaders who need to become strategic storytellers and require integrated systems to distil the insights needed from available data.

Sage’s Digital CFO study emphasises this evolution from traditional spreadsheet provider to strategic narrative creator. It states that a post-pandemic reality requires finance leaders to possess broad business acumen and the ability to “communicate data meaningfully”. They should be able to articulate the future of the business with clarity and foresight, which is severely hampered if you have fragmented financial systems that can’t speak to each other and where data flows are hampered.

In the survey, 41% of CFOs indicated that they lack an integrated finance system.

Traditional financial systems simply can’t keep up with the increasingly short shelf life of financial data, the report states.

“Finance teams using on-premise software systems are all too aware that they are losing their competitive edge. They want a relevant tech upgrade that can help them manage repetitive tasks, such as data inputting, as well as provide them with solid cybersecurity solutions and analyse data in real-time for actionable insights,” Burger says, concluding that this can only be found in the cloud.

Brought to you by Sage.

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