Gartner: Top security and risk management trends for 2021

The 8 top trends cited will enable rapid reinvention, including the skills gap, cybersecurity mesh and identity-first security.

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Image: iStock/LeoWolfert

At Tuesday's Gartner Security & Risk Management Summit, Gartner Research Vice President Peter Firstbrook discussed eight critical trends for security and risk-management leaders in his keynote address. COVID-19, he said, "accelerates digital business transformation and challenges traditional cybersecurity practices."

Firstbrook also said these trends "are a response to persistent global challenges that all organizations are experiencing."

SEE: COVID-19 workplace policy (TechRepublic Premium)

"The first challenge is a skills gap. Eighty percent of organizations tell us they have a hard time finding and hiring security professionals, and 71% say it's impacting their ability to deliver security projects within their organizations," Firstbrook said. 

Other key challenges facing security and risk leaders in 2021 include, "the complex geopolitical situation and increasing global regulations, the migration of workspaces and workloads off traditional networks, an explosion in endpoint diversity and locations, and a shifting attack environment, in particular, the challenges of ransomware and business email compromise."

The top 8 security and risk management trends 

1. Cybersecurity mesh

Deploying controls where they are most needed is essential for cybersecurity mesh, a modern security approach that enables tools to interoperate by providing foundational security services and centralized policy management and orchestration, rather than security tools running in a silo. A cybersecurity mesh architecture allows organizations to extend security controls to distributed assets, especially valuable now, since many IT assets now operate outside the traditional enterprise perimeter.

2. Identity-first security

The ideal had been access for any user, anytime, and from anywhere (a.k.a. "identity as the new security perimeter"). Technical and cultural shifts and a current majority remote workforce during COVID-19 rendered remote access essential. "Identity-first security puts identity at the center of security design and demands a major shift from traditional LAN edge design thinking," the Gartner report said.

"The SolarWinds attack demonstrated that we're not doing a great job of managing and monitoring identities," Firstbrook said. "While a lot of money and time has been spent on multi-factor authentication, single sign-on and biometric authentication, very little has been spent on effective monitoring of authentication to spot attacks against this infrastructure."

3. Security support for remote work is here to stay

According to the 2021 Gartner CIO Agenda Survey, 64% of employees are able to work remotely. Gartner surveys indicate that at least 30 to 40% will continue to work from home post-COVID-19. 

This shift can require many offices to undertake a total reboot of policies and security tools. As an example, Firstbrook said that endpoint protection services will need to move to cloud-delivered services. There also needs to be a review of existing policies for data protection, disaster recovery and backup to ensure everything will function for a remote staff. 

4. Cyber-savvy boards of directors

Directors rated cybersecurity the second-highest source of risk after regulatory compliance in the Gartner 2021 Board of Directors Survey. Gartner sees more enterprises creating a board-level dedicated cybersecurity committee helmed by a board member whose background has been in security or as a consultant.

By 2025, 40% of boards of directors will have a dedicated cybersecurity committee overseen by a qualified board member, up from less than 10% today, Gartner predicted.

5. Security vendor consolidation

Gartner found that 78% of CISOs have 16 or more tools in their cybersecurity vendor portfolios; 12% have 46 or more in the 2020 CISO Effectiveness Survey. Having many security products can increase complexity, integration costs and staffing requirements. 

"CISOs are keen to consolidate the number of security products and vendors they must deal with," Firstbrook said. "Having fewer security solutions can make it easier to properly configure them and respond to alerts, improving your security risk posture. However, buying a broader platform can have downsides in terms of cost and the time it takes to implement."

6. Privacy-enhancing computation

Look for privacy-enhancing computation techniques that protect in-use data (as opposed to while it's at rest or in motion), which enables secure data processing, sharing, cross-border transfers and analytics, even in untrusted environments. Implementations are on the rise in fraud analysis, intelligence, data sharing, financial services (e.g. anti-money laundering), pharmaceuticals and healthcare.

By 2025, 50% of large organizations will adopt privacy-enhancing computation for processing data in untrusted environments or multiparty data analytics use cases, Gartner predicted.

7. Breach and attack simulation

Breach and attack simulation tools provide continuous defensive posture assessments, and challenge limited visibility from annual point assessments like penetration testing. When CISOs include BAS as a part of their regular security assessments, teams can identify security posture gaps more effectively and better prioritize security initiatives.

8. Managing machine identities

Machine identity management is when a machine interacts with other entities, such as devices, applications, cloud services or gateways. Increased numbers of nonhuman entities are now present in organizations, and this means managing machine identities is now a vital part of the security strategy.

The complimentary webinar The Top Security & Risk Management Trends for 2021 is available on demand.

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