„Disruptive Change“: Right time to think security anew

Is „Digital Transformation“ something of the future? Definitely not. It has long become reality. With connected things and production, business models of enterprises are already changing profoundly. Communication with customers no longer happens over traditional websites. It encompasses apps and increasingly connected things as well. Rapidly changing business models and partnerships lead to new application architectures like micro service models, especially however to a more intensive usage of APIs (Application Programming Interfaces, interfaces of applications for external function calls), in order to combine functions of various internal and external services to new solutions.

This quick change is often being used as an argument that security can't be improved, since there is the believe that this would hinder the fulfilment of temporal and functional business requirements, especially of all at once. No new, better, up-to-date and future-oriented security concepts in applications are being implemented due to alleged time pressure. However, exactly the opposite is the case: Precisely this change is the chance to implement security faster than ever before. And anyhow, for communication from apps to backend and external systems, user authentication and of course complete handling of connected things one can’t use the same concepts that were introduced for websites five, ten or fifteen years ago.

Furthermore, by now there is a whole lot of established standards, from the more traditional SAML (Security Assertion Markup Language) to more modern worldwide standards, in which REST-based access of apps to services and between services is normal. OAuth 2.0 and OpenID Connect are good examples of this. Or, in other words: Mature possibilities for better security solutions are already a reality, in the form of standards as well as on a conceptual level.

Another good example is the new (and not yet really established) UMA (User Managed Access) standard of the Kantara Initiative. With this standard, users can share “their” data purposefully with applications beyond the basic OAuth 2.0 functions. If you look for example at some of the data challenges associated with the “connected car”, it soon becomes clear how useful new concepts can be.

UMA and other new standards enable easy control of who gets access when and to which data. Traditional concepts don’t allow this – as soon as diverse user groups need access to diverse data sources in diverse situations, one hits the wall or needs to “tinker” solutions (with much effort). If you look e.g. at the crash data recorder, to which insurances, manufacturers and the police need to have access – however, not always and definitely not to all data – it becomes clear how expansively some new challenges in digital transformation have to be solved if not built on modern security concepts.

“Disruption”, the fundamental change we experience in the digital transformation in many places – contrary to the slow and continual development that was the rule in many industries for years – is the chance to become faster, more agile and more secure. For this, we need to deploy new concepts that are oriented towards these new requirements. Already in the first project you are often quicker with this approach than by trying to adapt old concepts to new problems. We should use the chance to make security stronger, especially in the digital transformation. The alternative is risking not to be sufficiently agile enough to withstand competition, due to outdated software and old security architectures.


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