App-vancing Through Australia's Next Growth Frontier

Rob Malkin, Regional Vice President and Managing Director A/NZ at F5 Networks

It is now ten years since Apple introduced the first iPhone. It completely revolutionised our world and changed the way we use and understand applications. This past decade has seen the creation of an application ecosystem that was unfathomable when Steve Jobs stood up to announce his creation to the world.

Today, apps are at the heart of much of our engagement and innovation. It is estimated that in Australia, around 85 per cent of mobile device usage is in-app, equating to around one hour per day. Apps are undoubtedly transforming businesses across ANZ — with speed, intelligence, and security key to shaping an organisation's success.

As apps become the new normal, expectations will evolve beyond basic engagements and transactions. This shift is largely being driven by Australian millennials, and they will expect nothing less than real-time, intuitive, and secure app experiences. As Australia’s millennials make waves in shaping the economy, organisations and brands must look to evolve their offerings, approach, and strategies to elevate the end-user experience.

App savvy Aussies

The need for ‘instant gratification’ is no longer just a trait commonly associated with young children; it also equally applies to today’s app users.

While apps are a powerful vehicle in transforming how businesses operate and engage with their customers, we have now been conditioned to expect what we want, when we want it.

Aussies – ever keen on competition – once again come out on top when it comes to app usage. On average, Aussies use 36 mobile apps every month, compared to the global average of 30. Aussies also keep around 100 apps on their devices, which is 10 more than the average American or European consumer. The opportunity for businesses is that Aussies are already tied to their phones and they aren’t loyal to one particular app. If it isn’t working – they’ll just find a better option.

This app-volution has therefore created a new set of challenges as businesses rely on an ever-increasing number of apps across complex infrastructures to meet rising customer expectations, which also provides malicious actors with a source of new ways to mount attacks.

According to F5’s State of Application Delivery (SOAD) 2018 report, ANZ organisations are much more concerned about mobile security than our global counterparts – rating it the 3rd largest securing challenge (44%) in 2018. In comparison, it was rated 5th and 6th (27% and 29%) across APCJ and global organisations respectively – indicating ANZ has identified the need to step up application security across the region.

In 2018, the smartest companies will operate in an app-centric way and build services with the balance of speed and security at the heart of their customer’s experience. Businesses will need to think about why they want to move apps, who needs access, what they want to do with them, and how are they are going to deliver (and secure) them.

Taking charge of security

Apps are exploding in use and quantity, crossing boundaries between personal and professional, mobile and desktop, the data centre and cloud. A small mistake within an app can be can be extremely costly for the people responsible for it, as well as its users. Only recently, a simple coding error resulted in 180 million smartphone owners being left at risk of having their private data stolen.

Today, the cybersecurity challenge is daunting: organisations face a decrease in visibility, context and control, and an increase in surface area for cybercriminals to mount attacks. In fact, Australia still faces strong concerns surrounding the likelihood and impact of technological threats, with cyberattacks ranked in the top three of perceived risks when doing business in the country.                                                                                    

It is time to rethink traditional security architectures to begin addressing the areas of greatest vulnerability: apps and users. Defending the perimeter of the network is no longer sufficient, and businesses have to shift towards a proactive approach of prediction, detection, and response.

The problem is people

Did you know that the biggest cybersecurity threats lie within your company? According to a worldwide survey by Information Security Forum (ISF) members, the vast majority of network openings that allow cyber attackers in are actually accidentally created by employees—those with no intentions of harming their employer. 

According to F5’s SOAD 2018 report, underestimating the impact of employees not following security policy is the top rated security challenge facing ANZ companies in 2018, indicating we know our staff are the main security threat. More than half (52%) identified it as a top security concern, which is in contrast to both the wider APCJ region and globally (33% and 41% respectively).

Furthermore, a 2016 study by Robert Half found that more than 75 percent of Australian CIOs anticipated more cybersecurity threats in the next five years due to a shortage of skilled IT security professionals. This can be attributed to the fact that the industry will require adaptive skills as cybersecurity evolves in areas such as data classes and data governance.

Nurturing staff

This brings us to the need for education. As companies in Australia continue to innovate and evolve to stay relevant and engaged in this competitive landscape, security skill sets remain scarce. Educating employees on cybersecurity do’s and don’ts can go a long way to creating a security-first culture and ultimately, protecting the organisation from financial and reputational losses.

The Australian Government is increasingly recognising the importance of having a system in place to combat cyberattacks, having launched a comprehensive strategy document on this very issue last year. Cyber resilience involves all employees and it is important that they understand the importance of data protection and the role they play in their organisation’s cybersecurity strategy.

There is no crystal ball to peer into, but it is clear that Australia’s app-vancement is here to stay. As we head into 2018, it is not just about having the right technology to elevate and secure the end-user app experience, but also about building the right culture in organisations—to be faster, safer, and smarter.

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