SHARED INTEL: Poll shows companies pursuing ‘Digital Trust’ reap benefits as laggards fall behind

By Byron V. Acohido

Achieving “digital trust” is not going terribly well globally.

Related: How decentralized IoT boosts decarbonization

Yet, more so than ever, infusing trustworthiness into modern-day digital services has become mission critical for most businesses. Now comes survey findings that could perhaps help to move things in the right direction.

According to DigiCert’s 2024 State of Digital Trust Survey results, released today, companies proactively pursuing digital trust are seeing boosts in revenue, innovation and productivity. Conversely, organizations lagging may be flirting with disaster.

“The gap between the leaders and the laggards is growing,” says Brian Trzupek, DigiCert’s senior vice president of product. “If you factor in where we are in the world today with things like IoT, quantum computing and generative AI, we could be heading for a huge trust crisis.”

DigiCert polled some 300 IT, cybersecurity and DevOps professionals across North America, Europe and APAC. I sat down with Trzupek and Mike Nelson, DigiCert’s Global Vice President of Digital Trust, to discuss the wider implications of the survey findings. My takeaways:

Bungled innovation

Digital trust refers to companies meeting the reasonable expectation that the digital services they offer not only protects users, but also upholds societal expectations and values. The tech sector has been preaching this for several years, acknowledging the fact that preserving trust, as digital services advance, is proving to be extremely difficult — yet crucial nonetheless.

“Trust has become absolutely paramount in the world,” Nelson observes. “Trust can be lost when you introduce digital connectivity — and digital connectivity is everywhere.”

DigiCert’s survey presents hard evidence that trust can be the basis of a winning business model. The top 33 percent of digital ‘trust leaders’ identified in DigiCert’s poll said they can respond more effectively to outages and incidents and found themselves to be in a much better position to effectively leverage innovation. Meanwhile, the bottom 33 percent found it increasingly difficult to tap into innovation.

This tug-and-pull is happening in an operating environment where digital innovation, from a global perspective, is being bungled. That’s the assessment of the 2024 Edelman Trust Barometer, a study highlighting the rapid erosion of digital trust, to the point of exacerbating polarized political views.

Trzupek

In such an environment, companies have a terrific opportunity to set themselves apart as being trustworthy, Trzupek argues. “The companies we view as the most trustworthy on the planet are able to provide very reliable digital services in consistent ways,” he says. “They’re able to connect people through trusted experiences.”

Emerging standards

Indeed, advanced technologies, new protocols and emerging best practices are at hand to help companies build and sustain trust.

And supply chain participants and individual consumers are eager recipients, naturally gravitating to trusted services, Nelson observes. Digital trust has, in fact, become a crucial factor in consumer purchasing decisions and corporate procurement strategies, he says.

This dynamic is highlighted by support of the Matter smart home devices standard. Matter is part of a fresh slate of technical standards that must take hold to enable massively interconnected, highly interoperable digital systems.

Since it was introduced two years ago, Matter has been embraced by some 400 manufacturers of IoT devices and close to one million Matter certificates have been issued, Nelson told me. “It’s not just in smart homes,” he says. “We’re building trust into devices in automotive and we’re seeing it in healthcare, as well.”

For its part, DigiCert has continued to advance it’s DigiCert ONE platform of tools and services to help companies manage their digital certificates and Public Key Infrastructure (PKI.) DigiCert’s clients and prospects are steadily modernizing the way digital connections get authenticated and sensitive assets get encrypted, Trzupek told me.

“In visiting our customers over the past 18 months, I’ve seen a newfound energy for closely examining and more effectively managing PKI infrastructure, both internally and externally,” he says.  “Companies are moving to update decades old PKI systems because they realize how pivotal this is to digital trust and everything they do.”

DigiCert has also been a leader in championing the concept of “crypto agility” —the capacity to update and adapt cryptographic routines swiftly—something Trzupek and Nelson argued is rapidly becoming a business imperative.

A starting point

Nelson

Leveraging advanced tools and embracing emerging best practices is all well and good for the trust leaders. But what about the laggards? For the organizations just starting down the path towards achieving and sustaining digital trust, Nelson outlined this framework:

•Knowledge and inventory: Begin with taking inventory of cryptographic assets and understanding how they’re utilized within the organization.

•Policies and enforcement: Next, establish organizational policies that outline appropriate and inappropriate behaviors regarding digital assets. Assure that these policies are enforceable.

•Centralized security: Streamline control over various business units that may have disparate practices, thereby improving visibility and the ability to mitigate risks.

•Factor in business impact: Finally, prioritize security efforts based on the potential business impact. Evaluate the consequences should certain assets go offline; focus on protecting the most critical areas first.

Lagging really is no longer an option. Geo-political conflict, remote work exposures, unpredictable usage of generative AI; these all stand to further undermine digital trust for months and years to come.

Will the laggards follow the trust leaders? I’ll keep watch and keep reporting.

Acohido

Pulitzer Prize-winning business journalist Byron V. Acohido is dedicated to fostering public awareness about how to make the Internet as private and secure as it ought to be.


(LW provides consulting services to the vendors we cover.)

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