Note: This content is originally published by our partner DGC in their blog, the copyright belongs to DGC.
Comprehensive communication structures, greater efficiency, and new business models: Digital ecosystems offer companies a wide range of opportunities through strategic networking with service providers, customers, and business partners. However, this also makes systems more vulnerable to cyber-attacks. Decision-makers should therefore declare their organization’s entire value chain a cyber ecosystem and ensure 360-degree security – we’ll show you how.
What are digital ecosystems?
To understand the scale of a cyber attack on digital ecosystems, we should first consider how overarching systems are designed.
Digital ecosystems: Definition
In a digital ecosystem, companies and individuals come together to benefit collectively from their cooperation. This includes, for example, websites that are used to search for hotels and other accommodations: If the accommodation is pleasing, the provider is contacted, the stay is booked, and both sides are satisfied. The focus of a digital ecosystem, therefore, lies on products or services, around which providers, customers, and partners are grouped and networked. The cooperations are supported by a central digital platform and various ecosystem services so that all players can act across companies. These network effects can strengthen entire industries and ensure further collaborations.
The benefits and the connection to a digital ecosystem are individual – depending on the needs and requirements of the system. In addition to industry platforms, ecosystems are increasingly establishing themselves along the company’s own value chain. The focus here is on creating a digital space for exchange, for example, to share data in real-time and to be able to make business-critical decisions particularly quickly and based on facts.
Emergence and development of a digital ecosystem
At the beginning of a digital ecosystem, strategic considerations are made as to how promising business ideas can be realized as profitably as possible. Due to complex processes, the initiation of an ecosystem turns out to be a multilayered process that extends over various phases. The Fraunhofer Institute for Experimental Software Engineering (IESE) has developed a reference model specifically for this purpose and emphasizes how important it is to keep the “big picture” in mind during the realization of a digital ecosystem and to view it holistically. According to IESE, the central activities to be viewed in an integrated manner include not only fundamental strategic decisions and a growth-oriented approach, but also the design, construction, and technical realization of the digital ecosystem and the digital platform. Despite the complex tasks, companies should strive to initiate digital ecosystems as quickly as possible in order to stay one step ahead of the competition and benefit from competitive advantages. In doing so, they should definitely keep an eye on the issue of security.
Security risks in digital ecosystems
Digital ecosystems with many participants are highly complex and are continuously evolving in the course of rapidly advancing digitization. The security system must be able to cope with different sub-areas of digital ecosystems:
- The IT system around the platform must be secure.
- All relevant organizations and users must be provided with authorized and secure access to the platform.
- Interactions between stakeholders must be secured and protected so that no unauthorized persons can gain access to data and content.
This poses several challenges for the security arrangements of digital ecosystems:
Secure data exchange
Digital ecosystems rely on the exchange of data. During use, both usage data and personal data are generated, which must be protected. Data security and data sovereignty are, therefore, a central topic of digital ecosystems. Through targeted training and IT Security Awareness Training, employees are sensitized to potential risks and learn the first measures to defend themselves against these risks.
Reduce attack surfaces
The integration of a wide variety of users, each working with individualized access and IT systems, creates a heterogeneous IT landscape that offers numerous attack surfaces for cybercrime. The IT security approach must therefore be just as diverse and sophisticated as the modus operandi of potential attackers. Experienced IT security service providers can test digital ecosystems for vulnerabilities using a variety of tools and test how resilient they are in attack simulations. Offerings such as the Cyber Defense Operation Center (CDOC) of DGC regularly check your security systems and assist you in case of emergencies.
Adapt security measures
New digital ecosystems need to grow quickly to compete and penetrate the market. However, rapid development often contrasts with sustainable security measures. That’s why it’s important to keep both aspects in mind on an ongoing basis and find a way to reconcile them.
Even with intensive precautions, cyber-attacks can still occur, whether through gaps in the system or inadequately secured interfaces to business partners. To meet the far-reaching security requirements of digital ecosystems, companies should aim for a 360-degree approach. This approach addresses the security requirements of a digital ecosystem from all perspectives and derives tailored measures to prevent and eliminate risks. Specialized service providers such as the DGC support companies in establishing comprehensive security standards along their entire value chain to ensure all-round protection.
Conclusion: Secure cyber ecosystems and leverage potential
Digital ecosystems offer companies a wide range of opportunities and possibilities for further networking, making business processes more efficient, and establishing themselves as market leaders. However, the complexity of the systems also increases the risk of attacks from the cyber world – with serious consequences for all parties involved. That is why companies should rely on the right catalog of measures at an early stage when setting up digital ecosystems in order to align their security precautions with the latest standards and minimize the risk of hacker attacks.