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ITSM & IT security

The role of ITSM in the big IT security debate

Recent events such as WannaCry and other hacking threats have caused budget holders to refocus on network and end-point IT security – but they may be missing the point.

There is little doubt that headline-grabbing events such as the WannaCry NHS attacks in the UK and beyond cause businesses, both public and private, to re-evaluate their IT security policies and the tools that they use to keep company information and networks secure.

In the days following the attack, it was clear that the ever-increasing number of network and end-point security-led vendors were extolling the virtues of their application suites in protecting against and, in many cases dealing with, an existing threat. The picture was gloomy to say the least and you can see why organisations then flocked to Infosecurity Europe to engage with such vendors and spend more budget in these areas.

To face these modern threats, however, it is necessary to do more than just buy in increased IT security. Of course, this has a significant position in the IT arsenal, but there are many other areas where businesses can hugely increase their own data and application security, and this is where ITSM can play a significant role.

Service delivery has grown in terms of its reach and now typically manages both internal and external customers. This includes an ever-increasing amount of self-service automation, where customers can interact with the organisation in a more virtual way and have their issues or service requests resolved automatically. AI and chatbot functionality is adding to this automation and will soon be a common way to interact with first-line support.

But how does all this affect the IT security debate?

ITSM has traditionally been deployed as on-premises SaaS or a hybrid solution. Indeed, the many organisations that have been sensitive about their customer and employee data have driven the hybrid market, keeping their data in-house and maintaining their own IT infrastructure in the form of servers to hold the data. Such a set-up has one clear disadvantage though in this new era of security investment. Owning and maintaining your own server infrastructure is expensive and increasingly time-consuming. Servers need to be patched, updated, secure and guarded against the modern threats. In essence, they have become an expensive liability that the IT team is desperate to protect as a part of its responsibility.

Modern threats require modern thinking

The benefits of SaaS are easy to evangelise, but the concerns for many organisations about pushing their data to the cloud run deep. The fact is, though, that the modern security threats faced by many of these organisations can be resolved in a large part by switching their application usage to the SaaS model. Of course, not all SaaS is created equal, but there is no doubt that it removes the burden from IT in updating the applications in use and maintaining a costly infrastructure from threats. Instead, the management of such threats resides with the vendor supplying the ITSM application and, of course, the solution backbone that delivers the SaaS itself, be it AWS, Azure or similar.

Furthermore, the delivery of ITSM SaaS gives IT departments a whole raft of other benefits in security terms. Many ITSM vendors offer the ability to manage licenses, deploy patches and updates and can remotely control a user’s system in doing so. But what happens when an employee’s device becomes infected, gets stolen or hacked? One of the key benefits of switching to SaaS is that you can immediately block an account and then access and control and reinstall the account on another device. This can significantly improve the control that IT has over user access, but it also hugely reduces the complexity and time taken to rebuild a user laptop for example – something that is a common outcome of hacked or compromised devices. From an IT security point of view, I would go as far as to say that a modern disaster recovery set-up should always consider a SaaS approach as the best option, managing licenses centrally – deactivating and reallocating licenses as needed and backing up profiles and data in the cloud rather than on a local machine that could be damaged or stolen.

Embracing mobile IT increases the ability to react to threats

SaaS ITSM also gives users the ability to access their service applications securely via mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets. This not only gives greater working flexibility, but also enables users of the system to react more quickly to potential threats or incidents from any location rather than relying on an often-complex connection to an on-premises system. The key thing to remember here is that your IT practitioners need to be able to utilise modern technology and modern devices to react and cope with modern threats. ITSM can help you to not only mange these threats better, but it can also give you a greater understanding of the issues and incidents that are creating possible threats that can be resolved to increase data security. Removing more complex infrastructure and allowing your data to reside in the cloud will unburden your organisation and give you more budget to invest in other toolsets that will truly protect you from future threats.

It is therefore more important than ever to look at the ITSM solution you are using and to re-evaluate the way in which it is administered and deployed. There are myriad ITSM solutions that are rethinking the way in which service management is delivered, many of which will likely save you money rather than incur a frightening replacement cost. And this is the real beauty of switching to SaaS – it gives you an increased level of IT security and may not be as costly as you think!