The sudden shift to a mobile workforce has triggered massive innovations in cybersecurity and OT. Here’s a look at what has changed and what’s coming.

Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox

Stay informed and join our daily newsletter now!

5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Over the past 25 years, we’ve seen massive innovation around the technologies and devices that catapulted us into a mobile lifestyle. We’ve come to expect flawless, instant mobile communication and connectivity, but we have to remember, it wasn’t always like this. Remember back in 2013, when we referred to BYOD (bring your own device) as the “new normal”? It’s hard to believe we’ve come this far, this fast.

With most challenges comes the opportunity for disruption and innovation, and that’s the way I’m looking back at 2020. Due to the disruption of the pandemic, I expect we’ll see massive transformation in IT and security over the next three years. It will take some time — it always does — but we’re on a strong trajectory. 

Related: A Business Leader’s Beginner Guide to Cybersecurity

Prioritize a cloud-delivered EPP 

The traditional network perimeter has been eroding for years. Businesses no longer have the traditional protection of an in-office network as employees have been working from home, the airport and everywhere in between for years. While the remote work trend had been gaining speed for the past decade, the global health crisis has massively accelerated the work-from-anywhere mentality. Suddenly, employees around the globe began working outside the office every day. 

Cybersecurity threats do not simply disappear when an employee is within the network perimeter, in fact, it’s just the opposite. The first step to achieve 24/7 protection is to ensure that your organization’s endpoint protection platform (EPP) is cloud-delivered. This way it is always updated, accessible and protecting your employees’ laptops and workstations, no matter where they are working. According to Gartner, cloud-delivered EPP solutions will grow from 20 percent of new deals to 95 percent by 2025, due to the dire need to protect our globally distributed workforce today.

Related: The Real Cost of a Data Breach for Your Brand (and How to Best Protect Yourself)

Why SASE is the next phase of WFA evolution

When I talk to my peers who are looking to improve or innovate their security stack, I tell them to start from the beginning. To ensure that an organization is protected, security must be implemented at the developer or engineer level, instead of being seen as an add-on. Secure access service edge (SASE) architecture rolls networking and security into the cloud, making it easier for enterprises to provide simple and secure access to corporate resources, but it’s still in its infancy. 

This is an example of initial innovation in the security space that will be accelerated due to the hybrid workforce as the perimeter no longer includes just the four walls of the office. Gartner predicts that 40 percent of companies will have “explicit strategies to adopt SASE” solutions by 2024, a steep increase from just 1 percent of the market at the beginning of 2019.

Related: Cybersecurity Trends that Will Dominate the Market in 2020-21

Learning from mobility innovators

To achieve this security-first mindset, we may face challenges and hurdles similar to those that the mobile innovators faced. We can all agree Steve Jobs set the standard for igniting an industry with innovation, and we have him to thank for mobility advancements in the 2000s with the launch of the iPhone, iPad, MacBooks and more. 

Mobility is the key to remote work and, until this year, the network has been the perimeter. We must adapt and evolve current security strategies. Below I’ve outlined a linear progression of innovation in the mobile industry, and I expect we’ll see similar advancements on the security side in the coming years as tech such as cloud adoption becomes commonplace. Of course, looking back at this mobility timeline, these all seem like no-brainer luxuries since we use them every day. We need to bet on the long-term and understand that security and IT innovations will soon become mainstream.

  • 1995: Commercial industry settled on TCP/IP and the Web as the technical standards to enable the Internet.

  • 2000: Wi-Fi became mainstream and a hardwire was no longer a requirement. 

  • 2001:  The Wi-Fi card launched, allowing even more mobile work.

  • 2006: The launch of 3G in the United States — free from Wi-Fi.

  • 2014: Public cloud took off, enabling new apps, accessible everywhere. 

  • 2020: The global health crisis forced organizations around the world to go remote, putting major stress on IT and security teams to secure the network that now expands to living rooms, kitchens and outdoor cafés.

Business leaders looking to maintain business continuity and resiliency next year need to ensure that their security posture is strong. This forced innovation in security is similar to the innovation we’ve seen when business leaders began deploying large-scale SaaS technologies and increasing cloud adoption in the last decade. They were forced to think about it completely differently — from the purchasing cycle to deployment — and we have to do the same to secure the mobile workforce today and in the future.