Everything in your home — from your cable TV box and gaming consoles to your mobile phone, digital thermostat, and social media accounts — contributes to what is collectively known as your digital footprint. As the digital world expands, digital footprints have grown at a frenetic pace.

Now imagine the digital footprint of a modern business or organization with hundreds or even thousands of employees. In less than two decades, we’ve gone from hosting nothing outside of a building’s four walls to a wildly distributed and diverse digital environment with global connectivity and no walls whatsoever.

Employees bring new devices, applications, and services into these environments every day, without warning, creating a massive digital footprint. This represents a huge and inviting attack surface for those who want to steal data and conduct other cybercrimes. There are countless avenues onto your network and into your systems, and your enemies know it.

Change always holds the potential of introducing new risk — and today’s digital footprints are constantly changing. This change is a competitive requirement in today’s economy, so the answer to securing the modern digital footprint is not to resist change, but rather, to implement secure change.

Securing your organization

The first step to enabling secure change requires only a shift in perspective. Historically, many organizations have approached security in a threat-centric manner — identifying the latest external threat and implementing technology in a reactive fashion to address that specific threat. A better approach is to focus on the most likely threats to your business and to strategically deploy security controls to thwart them. The best way to truly understand the most likely threats is to look at your digital footprint through the eyes of your enemies. By understanding their perspectives, you can identify their intent, objectives, and, most likely, even their attack plan.

The first step in gaining this perspective is to ask who your likely enemies are. Are they criminals, nation-states, hacktivists, insiders, or some combination of the four? What are their motivations? Most commonly, attacks are based on a desire for money, a specific ideology, wanting to compromise a particular system, or ego. Understanding the most likely enemies and their motivation will help to inform your security strategy.

There are other key considerations, such as:

Do you have a clear understanding of your digital universe? Do you know how your enemies are likely to attack?

Which data would each of your likely adversaries be interested in stealing, where is it located, and how is it being defended?

Do you understand who should be allowed to have access to your enemies’ target assets and who should not? Do you have the processes and systems in place to ensure strong identity management over the long term?

Do you have the right security tools in place to prevent the most likely enemy attacks?

Is your security staff able to identify threats that matter, instead of spending time sifting through the constant stream of alerts?

Once these topics have been considered and you’ve evolved your security program to reflect the perspective of your enemies, it’s important to continuously monitor it and to conduct tests to ensure it remains durable against current and future threats.

By understanding your digital footprint and how likely your enemies are to attack it, you can intelligently deploy defences that take the risk out of change. And that’s a change for the better!