Security in the field of digital technology at the moment has become a prerequisite for the work of almost any business. Aravana CM for its clients conducted an interview with one of the professionals in the industry – Ruslan Yusufov, who is also one of the founders of the MINDSMITH technology analytical center.

Ruslan, you have behind you impressive experience in leading international companies in the field of high technology, strategic business planning and analysis. Please tell us why you decided to form a separate MINDSMITH structure under your leadership? How relevant are data-driven consulting / analytics and cybersecurity right now?

MINDSMITH is a technology analytical center, in the focus of our activities are research, education and consulting in the field of technology. Often there is a gap between business and technical teams in understanding tasks and processes. We set ourselves the task of being a kind of «translator» from the language of business to the language of technology and vice versa. This helps businesses navigate in the modern world, requiring quick answers and a readiness for change. And technical teams need to understand the tasks from the side of companies – to develop the most appropriate innovative solutions.

The ability to build solutions based on the analytics and research that we offer to our customers often makes simple and  shorter the path to the goal, and also helps not to waste money on the implementation of less promising projects. Also, since companies do not exist in a vacuum, they need to «keep abreast» and monitor changes in the market – this is the second task that our analytics solves.

As for the educational direction, through various formats of training and strategic sessions, we help company employees to understand the changes and transformation strategies of companies. To implement the changes, teamwork is needed. It is important that everyone is on the same page.

If we talk separately about the cybersecurity, as soon as the company begin to use the Internet in its activities, this topic becomes relevant for it. According to various estimates, cybersecurity risks are included in the list of key corporate risks for companies. Most crimes have moved from the physical world to the digital one; money and information can be stolen from the company. We hear about attacks on various companies almost daily. It is noteworthy that in 78% of cases, the human factor becomes the cause of the attack. Therefore, while the company employs people who work on the Internet, this risk will be relevant to them.

What business opportunities have arisen in connection with the development of new technologies?

A lot of companies got the opportunity to turn their business online. Time for providing services was reduced, companies have better understand their target audience and respond promptly to fast changes in customer requests, some companies are regularly release new digital products or expand their capabilities in the field of digital. New technologies gave to the business a huge boost and even made a revolution.

Not only products can be innovative, but also business models. Let`s take for the example – Apple, which has become the largest seller of music without studios recording and selling music discs. Amazon has become the largest online store without a single offline store. And today, Amazon, which began as an online bookstore, has become one of the leading providers of cloud solutions around the world.

Some players make various technological associations – alliances, consortia, partnerships – for the jointly explore the possibilities of new technologies and implementation them on practice. This is the way how technological ecosystems are formed. For example, we released the «Map of the Russian corporate blockchain ecosystem», highlighting 157 organizations interested in this technology in our country.

If we continue to talk about the development of cross-cutting technologies, such as blockchain or Al, then major players and states around the world are actively exploring and implementing these technologies to optimize different processes.

For example, the use of artificial intelligence has introduced radically new approaches of working with data and opened up new business opportunities: personalization in customer service based on an analysis of the collected data array about their interests and preferences, identification of fraudulent transactions, more accurate modeling and forecasting of market or product development, the ability to see patterns in customer purchases and much more.

An example of the use of the blockchain is the transaction with securities in the amount of €100 000, which was conducted by Siemens, GSK Stockmann and Commerzbank in February 2019. As a result, the whole process was reduced from two days to several minutes.

Interesting, some traditional players also change their roles. So, banks are gradually becoming technology providers. In the example above, it was Commerzbank that provided the R3 blockchain platform for the operation.

Based on your experience, what are the main mistakes companies make regarding digital security?

To combat cyber threats, companies create special departments, hire professionals or turn to external specialists for help. So, in the world, cybersecurity spending rose by 9%.

However, not all issues are resolved by the purchase of specialized programs and equipment. In modern business, any employee can become a weak link simply by clicking on a phishing link. For example, in Russia more than 78% of data leaks are caused by employees. This highlights the importance of digital literacy training and proper online behavior.

On the one hand, a threat to cybersecurity a lack of awareness can be called. Not everyone understand possible cyber risks and think that this does not concern them. A lot of people do not know the basic rules of digital hygiene – at school we were not taught the basics of safe behavior on the Internet. 

Such training should be part of the education of the whole society. Cybercrimes still do not look «serious» enough in the eyes of society: imagine that you came to the police to write a statement that someone had hacked your account on a social network.

How to your mind can managers assess cyber risks today and adapt their business ?

Ensuring cybersecurity is a complex issue. It is important to be able not only to prevent the incident, but also to react correctly in the case of a cyber attack. One of the solutions is cyber risk insurance so popular in the United States, which is one of the tools to manage such risks.

Cyber risks threaten confidential and personal data, financial resources, company reputation. It is important that managers understand the threat of cyber risks associated with the business and the brand of the company, with international or national regulation, as well as taking into account all stakeholders, including customers, partners, suppliers, etc.

What business models with IT will help to increase the efficiency of the current business?

Technologies provide new opportunities today in almost any field, often dramatically changing the market. Look at the advertising market: before, billboards, flyers, and TV ads were the advertising channels. The emergence of companies and customers on the Internet has influenced the development of online channels, and the development of new technologies daily allows you to increase the efficiency of working with your online audience. For example, helping to optimize and target advertising campaigns, conduct analytics and much more.

Companies should not be afraid of digitalization, but follow this trend and adapt to changes, sometimes even become pioneers and «disruptors» themselves. Otherwise, they will be  behind and will not be able to catch up the leaders.

What are the main IT trends of 2020 that you have noted for yourself at the moment?

The current situation with the pandemic and the transition of companies to remote work has become a catalyst for the transition of various businesses to online. Now everything is trending with the prefix «online»: online education, online movie theaters, online sports, online delivery, etc.

Circumstances are pushing companies to digitalize all processes, since now it is already a necessity in order to «survive» tomorrow. Consumer habits are changing and customers are increasingly choosing to receive services online, this approach is likely to continue after the pandemic.

Now, of course, there are more questions than answers. Will we get back to work in offices? How will child and adult education change? Will online education become an independent, and not an additional direction? Will the freelancer market and gig economy grow? Will there be new forms of organizations? It seems that the ability to manage employees remotely will become critical, but this poses serious challenges for leaders who are used to working in their offices, rather than in zoom or in chat rooms.

In addition to consulting and analytics, 

MINDSMITH provides training for business owners, top managers, company employees and government employees. What is the importance of conducting IB training sessions?

Companies simply forget about training employees of the basics of digital hygiene. But man is the weakest link in any technological system. Even if a company spends millions and tens of millions on cybersecurity, the careless actions of one of the employees – a weak password, lack of two-factor authentication, switching to phishing sites and much more – threaten the whole company and its future. Even attacks on large banks most often begin with simple phishing e-mail letter.

The training of employees working remotely is especially important in nowadays conditions – on the background of spreading the pandemic and the transition of many processes to online, cybersecurity threats are becoming even more relevant.

Ask yourself and your employees – have you changed the password in your home Wi-Fi for the last year, have you updated the software at least once on your home Wi-Fi router? And this must be done, because Wi-Fi is the entry point to the entire home network.

According to Sberbank, today in Russia more than 30% of office workers tend to open phishing email letters. And 57% of Russian people could not distinguish a phishing site from the real one as part of an experiment conducted by Avast company.

These are the basics of digital hygiene, without knowledge of which absolutely anyone becomes a potential victim of hackers. Our task is to teach the rules of behavior in the Internet and give instructions for setting up the entire digital infrastructure.

Cybersecurity is often referred to as a complex of correct purchased and configured programs and equipment that should protect the «perimeter». Only the «perimeters» are not exist any more; there are hundreds and thousands of employees who work from their personal devices, use public services and connect to IT systems remotely. In 2020, if the company will not engage employees in cyber education, then consider, that there is no security in such a company.

At MINDSMITH, we have launched a mobile digital hygiene course for all employees who are not IT and security professionals. The course has 22 workouts, 40 video lessons, 60+ cases, 15 checklists, 100 test tasks, as well as more than 20 practical exercises for setting up devices and services. The further information –  on the official page of the course «Cybersecurity in the conditions of remote work». 

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