The pandemic is ending. Will digital changes be reversed?

Deputy Chairman Dmitry Medvedev presented a report on information security at the June meeting of the Russian Security Council. He cited some truly alarming figures – over the past five months, the number of cybercrimes committed in Russia topped 180K, up 85%. Importantly, the report only accounted for crimes recorded by the federal authorities, while the real numbers and statistics remained behind the scenes.

There is another side to the coin. Buckwheat and toilet paper suppliers are not the only ones who benefited from the pandemic. Several Russian IT companies also quickly adapted and offered solutions for greater automation and information security. Russian developers supplied a range of solutions for information security alone – systems that protect telework channels, analyze and monitor corporate infrastructure security, and prevent social engineering attacks.

The recent ruble meltdown has made foreign solutions less affordable, allowing Russian companies to expand their presence in the market. The current state policy is also aimed at ousting foreign software – an impressive regulatory framework has been adopted for this purpose; this suggests a good outlook for Russian software in the domestic market.

With the onset of the coronavirus, Russia, like the rest of the world, has really entered the digital age. Even those who previously rejected digital technologies are compelled to use them now, if only for survival and convenience.

So what will happen with all these new solutions after the pandemic ends? Which strategy is the best?

Some businesses will definitely retract the changes and go back to their old ways; this might seem like the safest thing to do. Returning to the old business processes model should enable a significant saving of resources. But this could lead to partial or even full loss of market. Just think of the Polaroid company, which used to be popular in the late 20th century, with its instant cameras widely used by millions of people. The company management was so confident in the stability of its position in the market that it overlooked the emerging market of digital cameras and totally failed to response to the change. As a result, the company filed for bankruptcy in 2001.

Companies that will ultimately choose to change their policy to keep up with the times will be much more flexible and appealing; their processes will remain comprehensive and competitive due to readiness for unforeseen situations and abrupt scale-up.

But what will the cost price be for personnel and ensuring safety? Will everyone have enough financial resources for this purpose? Speaking to my partners, I can see that these are acute issues.

There are also other effects of the pandemic, with certain technological changes having become irreversible. Due to COVID-19, many top managers were able to personally make sure that a certain part of employees can work efficiently from home as well as in the office; some can work remotely on a permanent basis, which in the long run will allow for reduced office maintenance expenses.

Any unfavorable situation can be used for gaining profit. Some banks and corporations have acted shrewdly by analyzing the situation; they became aware that their efforts should include not only transferring accountant departments and service desk call centers to regions but should also involve work to properly expand their personnel through the use of outstaffing and attracting candidates from regions. Staff members who will receive a salary that is high by local standards will appreciate their job and make efforts to work effectively.

What IT strategy should be chosen? What amount of expenses for new technology is considered allowable? How dangerous are cyberthreats in each specific case? Russian’s business community is facing plenty of open questions – and businesses’ development and survival in the next few years may largely depend on the right answers.     

By Nikita Kuznetsov, information security expert, founder of the CSLab project

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