The past decade has seen a rise in data breaches and other threats, raising serious concerns about the need for improved cybersecurity.
To put into context, a whopping $6.9 billion was lost to cybercrime in 2021, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)’s annual Internet Crime Report.
Global cybercrime costs are expected to grow by 15 percent per year to reach $10.5 trillion annually by 2025, up from $3 trillion USD in 2015. This calls for intervention.
Enter the Digital Immune System.
What is Digital Immune System?
Technology needs a strong cyber immune system to fend off digital threats, just as humans require a strong immune system to keep us safe from diseases and illnesses.
First developed by American multinational technology corporation IBM, the Digital Immune system is a comprehensive approach to virus protection in response to the rising threat of Internet-based virus propagation.
Listed as one of the top strategic technology trends to watch out for in 2023, according to U.S.-based research and consulting firm Gartner, a Digital Immune System (DIS) “combines several software engineering strategies such as observability, automation, and extreme testing to enhance the customer experience by protecting against operational and security risks”.
“A digital immune system would work in much the same way as an adaptive, biological immune system: by observing the microbial landscape, detecting potential threats, and neutralizing them before they cause widespread harm,” Michael C. Schatz and Adam M. Phillippy write in the research paper, The rise of a digital immune system.
For businesses that rely on technology, ensuring the customer experience isn’t compromised by defects, system failures, or anomalies is important. With a DIS, organizations can prepare to mitigate potential risks and uses failures as learning opportunities to create a superior customer and user experience that is resilient to failures.
Gartner predicts that by 2025, organizations that invest in building digital immunity will increase customer satisfaction by decreasing downtime by 80%.
How DIS works
A DIS can be used as a frame of reference for investing in a set of practices to improve the quality and resilience of business-critical systems. Also, the creation and evolution of a DIS leads to a more resilient business outcome and creates business value for both business and IT stakeholders.
The report listed the six prerequisites for a strong digital immune system: observability, artificial intelligence (AI)-augmented testing, chaos engineering, auto-remediation, site reliability engineering (SRE), and software supply chain security.
Key actions for building a strong Digital Immune System.
- Create and execute a DIS strategy by forming executive-sponsored teams.
- Create dedicated communities of practice (CoPs) to share lessons learned, guiding principles, reusable assets, standards, tools, and any AI-based insights realized.
- Encourage and reward resilience improvements across the organization, especially collaboration on DIS opportunities, by making all leaders of resilience-related initiatives equally responsible for improving customer experiences.
- Foster a collaborative culture between development, security, and operations teams to ensure ongoing support for these initiatives.
Digital Immune System and the future of tech
In truth, deploying new technologies comes with additional risks for companies across the globe in light of the growing and ongoing threat of cyberattacks.
In 1999, leading American software company, Symantec Corporation launched the Digital Immune System, a strategy for providing corporate customers with intelligent tools that keep systems running at peak performance.
Several years later, the scale and robustness of cyberattacks have increased rapidly, forcing Big Tech companies to take action. In 2018, tech giant Google unveiled Chronicle, a cyber defense product aimed at identifying threats faster than any other tool on the market.
Another case in point is American Airlines, which uses site reliability engineering, chaos engineering practices, and a “test-first” approach to better deal with increased system complexity and address unknown vulnerabilities and weaknesses. This has, in turn, increased the company’s system understanding and knowledge and revealed one large resilience vulnerability.
In truth, an airline dealing with a large chunk of data requires a robust IT backbone in dealing with technological risks and cyber threats. “We have a rich history with technology and most of the time we’re just making incremental improvements on our systems,” Phillip Easter, head of emerging technology at American Airlines, said in a recent interview.
Also cited in the report is Banco Itaú, a Brazilian bank that added predictive and remediation capabilities to its monitoring systems to continuously assess health, improve system performance, and deliver insight into what drives the best employee and customer experience. With banks prone to cybercrime, the move may be considered a masterstroke as it helped increase Banco Itaú’s automatic remediation of incidents by 37% and decreased their mean time to resolution by 45%.
So, embracing DIS is central to protecting systems and important data against threats, especially for digitally-driven businesses most susceptible to cyber-attacks.
As Gartner states in this report, companies will face a lack of directly owned infrastructure and services outside of their control, thanks to digital transformation.
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