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The COVID-19 pandemic gave rise to a new era of hybrid and remote working, and in the months since restrictions in the UK have eased, it’s clear to see that for many businesses, the days of full-time office working have passed. As a result, IT leaders are having to quickly adapt again to ensure the temporary measures they swiftly put in place to tide their businesses over during the pandemic, can be made permanent, especially when it comes to protecting data that is dispersed across multiple cloud services and environments.
This shift in remote working has enabled office workers to become very well acquainted with instant messaging services such as Zoom, Teams and Slack. Veritas research found that the amount of time employees spend on these types of business collaboration tools has increased by 20% since the start of the pandemic. So, it should come as no surprise that an enormous 71% of office workers admit to sharing sensitive and business-critical company data using these tools.
Simultaneously, ransomware attacks have skyrocketed. In fact, cybercrime is set to cost the global economy $10.5 trillion annually by 2025. And, Veritas’ latest Vulnerability Lag report indicates that UK organisations have, on average, been victim of 2.7 ransomware attacks each in 2021, that have caused disruption and downtime to their businesses. If businesses fail to remove the vulnerabilities brought about by rapid digital transformation during the pandemic, they risk leaving themselves open to the threat of ransomware and other data loss incidents for another two years.
So, with remote working here to stay, and cybercriminals eager to exploit any holes in security, how can IT teams shore up their protection infrastructures to ensure they are not compromised?
Autonomous, AI-powered security
As hackers introduce threats that can automatically adapt to avoid detection, organisations also need to start responding by using autonomous Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) technologies to secure infrastructures and protect data with tools that are continually learning and improving all on their own - much faster than humans could hope to update them.
UK organisations estimate they need an additional 22 IT staff each in order to close their existing ransomware vulnerabilities. With the massive skills shortage we are currently seeing, there is no way UK enterprises will be able to magic up all the people they need to help them address the challenges ahead.
This is where automation, AI and ML technologies can play a vital role. AI is already quickly becoming a judge and gatekeeper across various industries. Its algorithms are diagnosing patients, selecting candidates for job interviews, and deciding who is eligible for welfare. With AI taking over more and more of our decision-making, we can use this to our advantage.
That’s not to say that AI will replace talent, far from it. But businesses now have an opportunity to direct their newly hired talent to focus on innovation projects, rather than on ‘catching up’. Automating data protection can play a key role in freeing up skilled IT team members to work on transformation projects by allowing AI and ML to shoulder more of the burden of time-consuming
manual processes. Ultimately, these processes can still be human-governed, with AI doing the leg work.
Data visibility is paramount
Surviving any kind of ransomware attack always starts with understanding your data – what it is, where it is and what it’s worth. Yet, most businesses lack clarity about the data they might need to protect, with the average organisation admitting that 39% of their data is “dark” – that is to say, they don’t know what it is – and that a further 51% is Redundant, Obsolete or Trivial (ROT).
And worse still, despite workforces now relying on cloud-based collaboration platforms such as Microsoft 365, almost half of the IT professionals we surveyed don’t even know how many cloud services their companies are using, let alone what they are, or whether they’re backed up and can be recovered at scale in the event of attack.
With the ability to mine large amounts of data, autonomous, AI-powered data protection can help businesses gain full visibility into their data to source vulnerabilities and secure them. It can also identify possible connections and suspect behaviour.
AI and people working together
This year, we’ll see AI-powered security and autonomous data management take centre stage for both hackers, and the businesses that work to keep them at bay. If a ransomware attack is a matter of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’, knowing ‘when’ becomes absolutely critical. AI-powered anomaly detection can quickly alert backup admins of potential issues and suspicious behaviour, while automated recovery processes that take immediate action to isolate backups with malware, limiting its impact, can ensure data is always recoverable.
As businesses navigate through the challenges of managing hybrid workforces and securing data, we expect to see automation and AI playing a significant role in shouldering the burden of time-consuming data protection processes, enabling IT teams to power ahead with innovation activities. The result will be that technology no longer becomes an ever-present threat to our data security, and instead becomes our most powerful ally in securing our data and helping to successfully transform the way in which businesses and employees operate.