This week Jolyon Jago, director of business development for email security firm DespatchBox, looks at why tightening the purse strings during the downturn is not an excuse to cut corners in security.
The internet has done much for business over the years, but one benefit still reigns superior: its ability to save money. Technologies such as email are now so pervasive that we forget just what it was like in the good old days of franking machines and manila envelopes.
However, with such economic uncertainty hanging in the wings it is easy to become complacent about such technology and cut corners to a more profitable business.
Collaborative working solutions are a prime example of a technology promoted heavily in times of financial woe. With promises of reduced staff travel costs and increased working efficiency, web-based solutions may seem, at first glance, to be the light at the end of the tunnel for organisations tightening the purse strings.
Indeed, claims of a fast return on investment made by the vendors of such solutions are often true. Yet, what is often forgotten is that by transferring more and more of your business process online you open yourself up to an increased risk of attack from external sources.
This is not to say that dragging your old business processes kicking and screaming in to the 21st century is a bad thing; far from it. What needs to be illustrated is that any attempt to leverage the internet as a means of opening up collaborative working systems, and in turn reducing costs, must be accompanied by adequate security measures.
We have seen similar scenarios with email. The technology was never designed as a carrier for high value, sensitive data and as such it is open to attack. Using email to send the company's latest financial reports, rather than paying for a costly courier, may be tempting but without adequate security the report is inherently vulnerable to a third-party attack.
Slowly, we have woken up to this fact and the market for email security packages is arguably now worth more than that for the email applications themselves.
The same risks can be associated with any form of web-based working, including the deployment of online collaborative environments where workers - perhaps spread out geographically - can come together to work on a common project or assignment.
When such environments are used for the collaborative generation of sensitive documents - a tempting alternative to flying senior executives to one location - similar levels of security are required: namely user authentication, encryption and audit trailing. Only then can the confidentiality and integrity of the material be guaranteed.
Indeed, such practices would undoubtedly reduce the lead times required for producing, negotiating and approving documents and would negate the need to physically distribute documentation and information.
Businesses can often be faced with a catch-22 when presented with a cost cutting exercise. The deployment of internet technologies as a means of reducing costs or increasing profitability is undoubtedly one of the most sensible routes to achieving business competitiveness; however, corners are often cut during the race.
Too frequently it is security that is neglected, often with consequences that can make the initial investment a devastatingly false economy.
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