About Gordon Makryllos

CEO | MD | Non-Executive Director | Strategy | Cloud | IT | Teleco | Services | FAICD | FAIM

Disruptive Thinking

Traditional ways of doing business have changed. Or, to be rather brutally accurate, they have been disrupted.

Our world has been transformed with mobile, cloud, social, data, security, connected devices, to a technological paradigm that could not have been imagined prior to the introduction of the PC, which is not that many years ago.

The way we do things and the devices we use to get things done basically just got faster and smarter at Moore’s law speed. Powered by cloud computing and mobile broadband and fuelled by the individual’s desire to be online all the time, the impact on the world of work and commerce has been profound. What this means for enterprises is that it’s time to think differently; doing business in the digital age means dealing with digital customers, and this can mean a need to dramatically reshape the organisation’s operating model.

Changing technologies, changing philosophies

One of the most significant changes to enterprise IT procurement today has been the shift of the cost model. Organisations have gone from the traditional method of paying up front for technological tools, the CAPEX route, to the more agile, cost-effective OPEX model. This change in philosophy has been powered by pay-as-you-use technology services and is at the heart of how enterprises have to adapt and reinvent themselves.

The benefits that this brings to businesses are many. There is the immediate cost saving inherent to not having to pay set-up fees and to not actually having to buy the full technology kit in the first place. The on-demand usage model also lets companies operate in more flexible and agile ways, creating work/life balance advantages for their employees and enabling better interaction with customers.

When your customers are digitally savvy end-users themselves, they naturally expect the companies they buy from to be similarly engaged. That’s why progressive companies are now using social media tools to deliver customer service, or enhancing their overall value proposition with dedicated smartphone apps.

Fundamentally, enterprises now need to work smarter. Those companies that want to thrive and enjoy competitive advantage over rivals are those that embrace technology, harness its power and use it to improve their product and service offering.

The shift from digital enablement to digital dependency

Technology and in particular mobile devices and mobile Internet connectivity have become life essentials – to the point where some countries have even gone as far as making broadband an actual human right. So much of what we now do as individuals requires technology to make it happen and that we’ve become dependent on it.

Broadband is now faster than ever and pretty much ubiquitous, while cloud computing and the proliferation of smartphones and tablets has been extraordinary and pervasive. Wearable technology is set to go mainstream and the Internet of Things will see more connected devices in place around the planet than we can currently envisage.

Enterprises have no choice but to reinvent and change the ways in which they work and interact with customers. At operational level they need to change their structure and their value proposition needs to evolve.

The more demanding customer

There is a cyclical element to the changes the digital era has brought us; because technology has enabled organisations to work in whole new ways, customer expectation levels have risen. The smartphone connected customer is used to great service, direct to their mobile device wherever they are, so the enterprise is under increasing pressure to keep meeting and exceeding these expectations. It’s a whole new paradigm of customer expectation.

To take this a little further, the next batch of customers currently working their way through university are all Echo Boomers, or Generation Y. They are the most technologically advanced and expectant generation of individuals we’ve ever produced, and they literally do not know or remember a world without broadband, mobile devices, laptops and always-on connectivity. So enterprises need to plan ahead – customer expectation of your digital capabilities is only going to keep on rising.

But remember to keep the back door locked

All this increased mobility and device usage does of course carry a threat with it. While organisations can benefit hugely from reinventing themselves and carrying a digital offering, they must be mindful of the security challenges. Hackers and cyber criminals have also continued to evolve, so risks do remain and have multiplied.

Enterprise mobility management, a strong firewall on your network, in-depth mobile policy within the organisation and even secure corporate app stores are all ways that enterprises can enjoy the benefits of digital while minimising security risks.

Disruptive thinking

With so many technological advances, disruptive thinking is key to an enterprise reaping the benefits quickly. Organisations need to disrupt themselves before they are disrupted, they need to embrace new technologies and adapt them to their organisation’s operations as this is the only way ahead.

Companies that move first will enjoy greater success over the coming decade. Enterprises that delay and continue to operate in time-honoured, traditional ways, will find themselves losing customers, market share and ultimately profitability.

By embracing the digital era and reinventing themselves as a digital enterprise, organisations can truly thrive. Technology used to be a support function within a company, today it is an absolutely essential element of a business strategy. By utilising digital tools to integrate customer service channels, companies can deliver far better customer service and keep customers coming back. Giving your customers more added value with smartphone apps tailored to their needs, will see your customer satisfaction levels increase.

These are some of the ways to forge ahead in the age of the digital economy. Disruptive thinking needs to also be applied to cyber security and protection from unwanted cyber penetrations of your systems, data and sensitive intellectual property.

A simple and effective start, on the security front, is to have professional penetration testing conducted on your organisations systems before someone else does.

The workspace of the future is exciting – but?

The digital tsunami and the move to mobile have changed the way we work forever. It is not all that long ago that we accepted our jobs as being part mobile – or at least where you could get a signal – and part tied to a desk. But no more; mobile is the new normal, it is here to stay, and the ‘workplace’ has become something altogether new and different.

At the heart of this workplace transformation has been an ongoing cycle of technological evolution. As networks have become faster and faster and support more apps and more data, the cloud has come into play. Cloud computing is now second nature to most people, and processing data through or storing it in the cloud has grown exponentially.

This faster computing power married to mobility’s always-on-anywhere nature has in turn led to richer content and applications at end-user level, for which end-users want ever smarter mobile devices, hence the astonishing rise in smartphone and tablet proliferation. Then, having faster, smarter mobile devices and ever-faster mobile broadband, end-users consume more and more data and digital content, which in its own turn has the knock-on effect of needing faster networks. This is the mobility and virtualization lifecycle, and its impact on the workplace has been revolutionary.

The point is that the traditional way of working has changed, and with it the workplace itself. And this has been powered not just by technology, but by people themselves. Mobile technology has empowered people to shape their workplaces to their own demands. It is a brave new world all right, and a truly exciting one.

How workers and ways of working are changing

Mobile has changed so much of what we’re used to. The typical ‘office job’ has transformed into something which through mobile empowers the employee and benefits the employer, in the form of greater freedom and increased productivity respectively. The consumerization of IT led us to bring your own device (BYOD) policies, with research showing that 87 per cent of employees have used a personal device in the workplace. Sales of smartphones and tablets now outstrip all PCs put together, including notebooks. 79 per cent of IT decision-makers say virtual desktops are in their current or future plans, while enterprise social networking is also high on agendas. The world of work went and got mobile, and employers have had no choice but to embrace it.

Buildings, ways of working and ICT strategy

The new workplace has become a seamless environment, where personal and professional crossover and interchange. Even workplace buildings themselves have become part of the mix; intelligent building projects are in place now which differ hugely from offices and factories of days gone by. The need for intelligent buildings now informs a company’s ICT strategy, as the new, mobile first way of working requires this new workplace to make it a reality.

When previously kitting out an office building IT departments generally focused on wireless connection models and protocols, wired and wireless access points and so on. There were no interfaces in place for seamless integration of multiple mobile devices, networks and platforms were largely proprietary (and not very interoperable with multiple different devices and protocols) and legacy services were limited. In short, the workplace was a relatively dumb environment.

The shift to new ways of working has created the need for new, intelligent buildings to support progressive companies. New working environments are looking to the Internet of Things as a driver, with its need for embedded systems with local computing. Next generation communications systems like MiFi and Zigbee must be worked into the mix, as must multimodal interactive interfaces like NFC, digital signage and all the various smart devices that now enter the workplace.

Intelligent buildings can also have a positive environmental impact thanks to increased numbers of sensors, monitoring systems and controllability of systems making them greener places to work. All of these elements are now making their way into organisations’ real estate acquisition strategies, making them part of an overall business strategy. Including smart intelligence to the building itself’s design makes for a smarter workplace and happier employees. This means thinking about your ICT strategy can separate digital, Business Intelligence and legacy systems while still looking to generate interaction between unified communications and collaboration (UCC) tools, human resources, security and suppliers.

In short, companies must now think not just from their own perspective but also from what their employees want and expect from a workplace. Take a technology-agnostic approach, and think ahead – use your building systems to deliver open, integrated services to workers – not just to manage your building. That’s the way to moving to the cloud-enabled, flexible and any place, anywhere, anytime method of working.

The security imperative

The new way of working is exciting, progressive and more productive – but it of course remains vital not to ignore the potential security risks. BYOD and smart building initiatives have helped empower workers in unprecedented ways, but they do bring with them traditional worries. Company data now resides on more devices in more places than ever, and IT departments have no choice but to accept this and mitigate it.

Lost or stolen mobile devices naturally remain a key concern for IT professionals, while employees placing data in cloud-based file-hosting apps such as Dropbox is also a potential problem. Traditional security threats like hacking and DoS (denial of service) attacks are still present too of course. So the IT department must manage both the old threats and the new.

They can begin by implementing a mobility policy which lays out the rules and precautionary measures needed to keep sensitive corporate data and systems as safe as possible. Employees bringing own devices into the workplace have to play their part and commit to safeguarding data and not abusing their newfound flexibility. Device management systems married to good quality encryption tools can help guard against data loss via stolen or lost mobile devices, but with both mobility and new, intelligent building systems to manage, companies should think about both hardware and software encryption policies.

The new workplace is a thrilling prospect, taking our now second nature mobility, partnering it to intelligent building environments and using it to help us enjoy greater freedom and flexibility in our jobs than ever. It’s an exciting time – but nonetheless one that requires good planning and the factoring in of expansive security measures at each step on the journey.

Digital Innovation – the non-stop next generation

Mobile, Cloud computing, Smartphone Apps, 4G, M2M, the Internet of Things, Generation Y – we have had to adjust our thinking and behaviour to all sorts of new technological terminology in recent times. The thing is, when you sit down and look at them all together, they pretty much fall under one umbrella expression – digital innovation.

Innovation as a word tends to get thrown about all around the place in business, but in the IT industry it has real tangible meaning. Technological advancements tend to be about genuinely disruptive trends which come along and change the game, that really transform the ways we have been used to doing things. Without digital innovation we might have stopped at broadband ADSL connections and decided that version of ‘being online’ would suffice. As it is, technology companies and entrepreneurs have kept on pushing the envelope, finding out first what was possible, then developing it, and often only then discovering where it could have a big impact.

The impact of continuing digital innovation cannot be overstated. Traditional business models have quickly become outdated, social platforms are now massively influential, knowledge has effectively become a commodity and data has increased rapidly in value – and this is really only the beginning.

Digital trends driving digital change

Right at the vanguard of digital innovation is the individual. In the early days of technology the trends tended to be set by manufacturers in terms of what they were able to design and produce. Today the end-user is the enabler, and the consumer is often more tech-savvy than the company.

The rise of digitisation can be felt in so many places. Consider Machine to Machine (M2M) communications and the Internet of Things (IoT) as a starting point – connected cars, smart homes and connected consumer electronics are all set to become the norm. Digital currencies like Bitcoin have gone mainstream.

Data is at the core of this technological, cultural and social shift. We now create and utilize data in almost mind-numbing amounts – consider that there were estimated to be around 183 billion emails sent per dayin 2013, and that Twitter users send over 500 million tweets per day. All this data is informing the way companies operate, with analytics tools helping them to change the way they plan, develop and take to market new products and services.

The knock-on effect of digital innovation on commerce in general can be felt in the way that borders no longer seem relevant. The online nature of business and consumers going mobile means that trade is anywhere and everywhere – in a world of no borders, international expansion becomes easier than ever. The restrictions that existed pre-digital no longer apply. So once again we come to the disruptive nature of technology, how it always changes the game – where once organizations and industries thought capital-first and needed CAPEX in place to begin ambitious expansion plans, today digitally-enabled business models mean they can source and engage with customers in entirely new, cost-effective ways.

Every aspect of modern life

Here is where I really enjoy evaluating digital innovation, seeing where it has impacted modern living – because the answer is ‘everywhere’. Consider how we work today – mobile. How we consume entertainment, such as video and music – mobile, streamed, High Definition, using state of the art Bluetooth and mobile enabled devices connected to wireless HiFi sound systems with full-bodied sound. When exercising, our fitness regimes can be tracked, analysed and improved by mobile devices connected to apps on our smartphones. Digital innovation affects and informs so much of what we do and gives us more control over it too.

No sign of slowing – only growing

The incredible speed of digital innovation is in evidence all around us. Five years ago the best HD TVs on the market had screen resolutions of 1080 x 1920 – today that is the resolution of a five-inch screen smartphone. Wearable technology used to be the preserve of science-fiction movies, but today is a reality – sales of wearable tech are predicted to hit 125 million devices by 2017, as wearable experiences similar innovation-powered growth to that of the mobile apps market did.

Looking back to the birth of smartphone apps, they came along and grew in popularity at an incredible pace. Product development in the digital space is dynamic and app developers do not wait around – so software is evolving fast and constantly. And this is all being powered by end-user demand – the digital consumer today wants it their way, wants it to work fast and mobile, and wants it now. It is this imperative that is forcing the IT industry to go at such a pace, to innovate all the time and always be looking for that next killer app or must-have device.

The real world impact and what’s next

Digital innovation is now simply part of life. It powers much of our daily routine and impacts economically too – it is estimated that $10 to $15 trillion growth in GDP is generated by technology innovation around the world. In 2014 and beyond it will continue to enhance industries like health, education, transport and more. The future really is now.

Gordon Makryllos

The journey into the cloud – making the right choices

The cloud is now, quite literally, everywhere. IT end-users interact with the cloud on a daily basis, organizations are engaged in cloud services at all times, and the cloud powers much of the way business operates today. The business benefits of cloud computing are now well-established and acknowledged, yet 37% of IT decision makers think staff have bought cloud services outside of the IT department without permission – meaning not everyone has thought the process through as well as they probably should have.

The cloud journey has now become a strategic imperative and no longer just a tactical IT choice – greater flexibility, improved productivity, increased collaboration, remote working and greatly reduced CAPEX can all be found through a smart cloud policy. But as with any strategic business initiative, making the right choices of suppliers, partners and relationships is the route to these dividends. And put simply, the cloud has gone mainstream.

So how do you ensure that you get these choices right and maximize the benefits of cloud computing to your organization while minimizing risk? Well, in all honesty, it genuinely depends on where you are starting from.

The greenfield approach

Companies and organizations which are taking a “greenfield approach” to cloud computing face a different set of challenges. Coming from this angle, the most beneficial way forward can be the lease and configure model. Instead of having to go on out and buy expensive hardware, and then also manage it, organizations are finding value in the managed services route. The main advantage here to “greenfield companies” is that they can simply pay a leasing fee and have their cloud solution specified and configured precisely to meet their needs.

What this means is that start-up companies or start-up divisions can operate independently and go straight into the cloud. They don’t need to set anything up, whether that is databases or ERP tools, and they are freeing themselves from risk and also responsibility. They enjoy all the benefits of the “greenfield approach”, under which they can test out new initiatives and processes, while just paying a fee for their expert partner to service their storage, virtual machines and applications in the cloud. It can very much be argued that companies in this category can make the move to the cloud more easily than their more established counterparts.

brownfield transformation

More mature companies and organizations can face a more complicated time of it however. If they have greater experience, have existing IT assets on their balance sheet and have a range of business processes in place, then they face a trickier journey into the cloud. By being in the “brownfield” category they can’t simply plug into managed cloud services without a transformation journey – they have totransform their existing operations and systems to the new environment.

These companies also have to address the financial equation which centers on those existing assets, while also managing greater levels of fear, uncertainty and risk than their “greenfield” peers. Meaning they are often in the market for a trusted third party who they can partner with and agree on the required Service Level Agreements (SLAs).

changing times for the CIO

Each of these approaches however means a range of challenges for the CIO. In days gone by the CIO needed to have in-depth technical skills and knowledge, and true IT project management expertise – today the CIO needs to be much more commercially and partnership savvy.

Today’s CIO must specialize in partnerships and relationships, SLAs and vendor management – in essence, the CIO has transformed too, from technologists to commercial decision-maker. In addition to far greater commercial know-how in general, today’s CIO needs to be much more marketing aware to leverage the opportunities that social media and mobile cloud apps offer in marketing leverage.

So whether the “greenfield” or “brownfield” approach, the burden when formulating that essential cloud strategy falls on the company CIO and IT department. They no longer have to build, install and operate systems, they need to specify, partner, transition, configure and manage commercial outcomes. The worldwide cloud market is forecast to grow from $40.7 billion in 2011 to $241 billion in 2020, and research regularly places cloud high among CIO priorities.

So a different way of thinking is required, since organizations are no longer just picking products and boxes, they are picking partners and service providers.  The old approach of buying the market leading product vendor to reduce the risk of technical obsolescence no longer applies. CIOs are now charged with helping make corporate IT agile, flexible and relevant to market discontinuities. Cloud computing, as a disruptive technology, was always going to disrupt the CIO’s traditional way of doing things. CIO’s now need to help reduce the risk of business model obsolescence.

The pace of technological change is accelerating and driving business model change. The CIO challenge has moved from technology obsolescence to business model obsolescence if IT cannot support the business model changes.

Gordon

Smart cities will deliver Innovation Centres

“Competition between Cities” has started

Smart city projects are among the most exciting technological initiatives around today and will play a major role in the world’s future growth. Modern technology lets us track and monitor pretty much anything in a major urban environment – noise, light, traffic, weather and so on – and use this data to improve people’s living and working conditions.

Traffic and parking availability is one area of smart city projects that is leveraging new technology to drive real change. New technology is emerging all the time that lets us manipulate networks more finely, taking advantage of more sensors, more cameras and more real-time data to improve road traffic.

Recent research showed that the average UK motorist spends over 2,500 hours in their lifetime driving around looking for car parking spacesThat’s an enormous 106 days – and in a hectic, built-up city like London, it takes an average of 20 minutes to find a parking space. Other statistics show that up to 30 per cent of city traffic is created by people driving around looking for an available parking space.

With population and vehicle figures always rising, it is hard to see these numbers falling without any kind of intervention. The UN estimates that by 2050 the world’s population will reach 9 billion people, the majority of this growth taking place in cities. This means urban populations will have grown to 6.3 billion by 2050, more than double the 2.8 billion living in cities today. So with all those extra people on the roads, tracking and controlling car and general traffic movements in a more intelligent, detailed way, will become vital.

Taming the beast

Technology provides the tools to make managing this ever-increasing traffic a reality. There are three key elements to dealing with this urban traffic as we move forward – identifying the problem, keeping road users informed and deploying smart mechanisms to keep traffic flowing. Addressing these lets us approach the issue progressively and practically.

Data monitoring and communicating with end-user mobile device apps is already part of modern urban living. We can receive the latest overground and subway train information direct to our smartphones when commuting, helping make the journey to work less of a hassle. Regarding traffic flow, one of the most interesting developments I have seen more of recently was in a “smart car park”, where sensors detect whether or not a car is parked in a particular spot and communicate that to drivers who have just arrived, telling them where available parking spaces with visual indicators of red and green lights – again saving time and keeping traffic flowing.

This model would work in a major city too. Smart cities already have technology in place to install a ‘mesh’ over the whole urban environment, with sensors installed to transmit real-time traffic data across the network. Sensors placed on buildings and on kerbsides could determine whether or not there is a car parked in a space and communicate this information to smartphone users – it could even bring Satellite Navigation and mapping technology into the mix to deliver true, real-time parking information to drivers. Drivers could save both time and frustration – forewarned is forearmed.

Powering the cities of the future

Faster mobile networks are at the heart of smart cities and are enabling people to do more on the move. As networks offer more cloud-based services and storage, this in turn leads to richer content and apps being available to end-users, which both informs and is informed by ever-smarter mobile devices.Smarter devices, faster networks and the cloud becoming ubiquitous all combine to power greater consumption of digital content – in short, users want more data all the time and want it now.

The Internet of Things (IoT) will also play a key role in smart city development. The sheer weight of Big Data generated by the IoT will impact everywhere, particularly on things like traffic flow – town planners will be able to gather the data, analyse it and use it to tailor future policy and projects.

The changing nature of the city as we know it

As smart cities get smarter we’ll be able to introduce new, joined-up services, based on gathering data through sensors and delivering it to smart devices to make life easier for both citizens and administrations. As well as projects like smart traffic management there are other knock-on benefits to be had – for example, parking space sensors could also be used to detect street temperatures in real-time, and tell municipalities whether they need to send out snow ploughs today.

Smart cities are very much about making yesterday’s dreams today’s reality. Back in the mid-twentieth century there was much talk of traffic jams and urban congestion being eliminated in the future. Technology has helped change the very nature of a city and encourage investment in smart cities as a result. Cities began life as religious centers which in time became defence centres and subsequently market centres and industrial centers. In the information era, cities will evolve to become innovation centres, and as economic competition becomes more about competition between cities rather  than just countries, having high levels of innovation and skilled people will be key. The smarter the city, the higher its innovation levels and the better equipped it will be to compete in the economic marketplace.

Gordon

Business Applications as a Service (BAaaS)

Moving business apps into the cloud carries big benefits

The rise and rise of the as-a-Service (XaaS) model continues. The various models based around the XaaS approach are all forecast to continue growing rapidly as organizations go on taking advantage of the increased flexibility, lower CAPEX and on-demand nature of the service. Gartner predicts that Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) will grow at a CAGR of 41.3 per cent through 2016, while Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) will hit 27.7 per cent CAGR in the same period. The Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) market will grow at 19.5 per cent CAGR in that time too, demonstrating how significant the cloud delivery of IT services has become.

XaaS is about making life easier for the customer while giving the provider greater flexibility. Where previously software licenses were bought and long-term contracts entered into, today organizations want and need to be more agile. Utilizing IT services on-demand means that businesses can deploy services as needed, quickly, securely and cost-effectively, and the cloud has enabled this change in mentality. It has helped to create a more business-centric IT culture, where companies and organizations really do get to have IT on their own terms.

Beyond software and infrastructure

As every mobile user knows, this is the era of the app. Cloud delivery of our favourite films, music, games, magazines and books direct to our smartphones or tablets is now entirely second nature, and it has almost become hard to remember the world before it. So just as we source our personal apps on demand from the cloud, doesn’t it now make sense that we do the same thing with business applications?

Business Applications as a Service (BAaaS) is well set to become the next big thing in app delivery this year. As companies continue needing to cut costs wherever possible, shifting certain business applications into the cloud and utilizing them on an on-demand basis helps to remove the CAPEX typically involved in purchasing business services, and also reduces OPEX as you go along. Companies today often find that processes and requirements change on a continuous basis, meaning purchasing business applications outright can become a zero-sum game or even a loss-maker. Organization and end-user needs are always evolving, and new functionality is often required at short notice.

So just as Software as a Service began life delivering business applications like Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Human Resource Management (HRM) tools on demand and via the cloud, so the BAaaS model will evolve to deliver other key applications like Business Intelligence (BI), security tools, plant control and business premises management apps – it’s the next logical step in this technology shift.

Why so popular?

In addition to the OPEX and CAPEX benefits, BAaaS tools can be used from any device, whenever and wherever the end-user wants. With so many personal apps delivered through the cloud to mobile devices today, end-users are perfectly familiar using the internet to get the apps they need. So there is no reason why this should not extend to the workplace. There’s also a shorter learning curve to be had because of this end-user familiarity.

Delivering business apps in this way also makes the upgrade process far easier. Organizations work with their BAaaS partner to establish the terms of engagement, the BAaaS partner then takes care of all updates and upgrades to apps. No additional hardware, software or capacity upgrades are required, even when scaling up the user base. It is a model of simplicity.

The changing nature of the CIO

The BAaaS shift also has major implications for the CIO and the IT department. With the role of the CIO changing into that of a business-critical one, the benefits of BAaaS can help make the transition simpler. With budgets remaining tight, the pressure is on the CIO to do more with less – their focus must become more strategic and they have to deliver commercially impactful initiatives – by being innovative, agile and prepared to adopt new technologies.

Every stakeholder today expects more. They expect more apps delivered more quickly and more reliably, wherever they are, while ensuring that the network remains more secure. This means customers, partners, employees, fellow C-level executives – the modern CIO now has a very different role. The IT department has become both the engine room of a company and also a business unit in itself which must innovate, think strategically and drive the organization forward. BAaaS is the latest cloud service which can help make the CIO’s mission easier and more relevant.

Gordon

Cyber threats makes it to number 4 on the Global WEF Agenda

A recent report released by the World Economic Forum (WEF) focused on the Global Agenda for 2014 and the top 10 trends facing the world. As one might expect, topping the list were globally pertinent and vital topics like; growing societal tensions in the Middle East and North Africa; income disparity around the world; and ongoing unemployment.

However in fourth place was “intensifying cyber threats”, which was considered a more significant issue than climate change and diminishing confidence in economic policies.

This is a truly insightful conclusion – such a global focused, facts-based organisation marking cyber threats at such a high threat level – shows how rapidly technological threats have evolved. It’s not that long ago that ‘being online’, whether as an organisation or as an individual, meant merely having your own server – relatively secure and simple to fireproof – against typical cyber-attacks and threats.

The evolution of IT into cloud computing, machine to machine (M2M) communications and the Internet of Things (IoT), presents a whole new generation of dangers – ones against which most industries, companies and end-users are not safe.

The cloud of course means more devices and machines than ever are connected through the same network, making it an even bigger target for cyber terrorists. Get one denial-of-service (DoS) attack through successfully and it can grow exponentially through the cloud to other domains, taking many other websites with it.

Similarly the IoT has presented cyber attackers with a particularly attractive playground – the network infrastructure and technological capabilities are really transforming at a rate that is too fast for cybersecurity to keep pace.

Many IoT machines and devices remain quite unsecured, with communications between them being unencrypted. This is clearly a major worry when so much private, personal and sensitive data is communicated via the internet.

Changing habits, changing threats

The nature of how we use IT has also helped form the evolution in cyber security threats. We love all the benefits that come with our increasingly mobile-powered lives; more flexible work practices, greater productivity, increased control and choice over our consumer habits, but we do need to be aware that these changes carry new threats too.

Through 2014 and beyond, it is highly likely that we will see cyber threats piggyback this trend to make attacks more personal. Where previously generic data was the target for cyber-attacks, they may now shift to specific, individual information. These attacks will target mobile operating systems, since thanks too trends like BYOD, mobile devices now very often carry both personal and corporate data on them. In 2013 there was 1000 per cent growth in malicious Android apps, demonstrating the shift in focus by cyber attackers. Factor in SMS floods, development of malicious apps and even fraudulent developer credentials appearing in app marketplaces and it becomes clear that mobile is a fertile hunting ground for the modern cyber criminal.

The growth in social media use presents another big target too. Social is a true modern-day technology success story, enabling people to keep in touch and share experiences in whole new ways, no matter where they are.

That ubiquity however does present new territory for cyber threats, with social attacks likely to increase massively in the near future. Social media utilises personal data, passwords, contacts, location-based activities and more – all of which is highly attractive bait to cyber criminals. So it is perhaps no surprise that earlier this year even President Obama was banned from using his smartphone due to security concerns.

Another modern day advancement that carries its own new threats is online currencies. Ransomware has been developed and targets currencies like Bitcoin, while online currencies also offer cyber criminals the opportunity for money laundering. Currency exchanges are also potential areas of attack. Traditional threats of course remain too – 2013 saw the biggest cyber fraud case in history, as 160 million credit cards were compromised in the US, to the tune of $300 million.

In short, new technologies and the growth of the cloud and increased mobility mean more targets for cybercriminals. Gartner suggests that by 2020 governments and enterprises will leave a massive 75 per cent of sensitive data unprotected – so organisations are going to need to think long and carefully about the security policies they implement to mitigate this threat and tighten up cybersecurity as much as possible.

Malware hasn’t gone away

Another threat which is not gone but merely evolving is malware. Previously the preserve of desktops and the enterprise environment, malware has transformed to take its dangers to the mobile landscape as well. Malware has adapted to target mobile authentication processes via fake SMS confirmations and other means. Android malware is also on the rapid rise.

This year will also likely see malware architects continue with covert command-and-control (CnC) attacks on networks. Encryption techniques go on getting smarter and stealthier and malware is now smarter than ever in evading traditional network defences.

Time to evolve thinking

The changing nature of technology in the mobile era – with disruptive solutions being developed all the time – means that the CSO has to always think one step ahead. As the WEF report indicates, cyber threats will continue to grow and evolve throughout 2014, with the only predictable thing about them being their unpredictability.

Traditional perimeter-based security solutions are today less effective than usual because of disruptors like cloud, mobile and social. M2M, the IoT, wearable technology in the workplace and more will continue to render the perimeter security model less powerful and the financial imperative of modern cyber threats is clear. Some estimates forecast that failure to implement sufficient cyber security solutions and capabilities quickly enough could mean a $3 trillion hit to the world economy by 2020.

Fourth on the Global WEF Agenda – cyber threats

Cyber threats is number 4 on the World Economic Forum of top 10 trends, so it is time to plan ahead and be proactive about new security threats. Allocate sufficient resources and people to head off cyber threats before they attack and organisations can still win the battle and the war.