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The Digital Trust Paradox: Despite hailing its importance, for most it’s not a priority

Research by ISACA finds that digital trust strategies are being neglected, despite one in five (22%) businesses in Europe having experienced increased cyberattacks in the past year

New research by global digital trust association ISACA underscores the importance of digital trust for business and IT professionals in Europe. The study shows 94% of respondents believe that digital trust is relevant to their organisation, with 93% of IT professionals stating it is relevant for their current job. And its significance will only grow as 83% of businesses think digital trust will be even more important over the next five years.

ISACA defines digital trust as the confidence in the integrity of the relationship, interactions and transactions among providers and consumers within an associated digital ecosystem. This includes the ability of people, organisations, processes, information and technology to create and maintain a trustworthy digital world. It has many key components including security, data integrity, privacy, governance and assurance. Digital trust is a driving factor in consumer decisions and enterprise resilience in a digital-dominated environment, meaning high levels of digital trust strengthen a business’ brand and reputation.

Organisations must prioritise cross-functional teams, communication channels, and training programs that encourage collaboration to achieve digital transformation objectives and maintain trust with stakeholders. But according to ISACA’s new research, less than half (44%) of respondents feel there is sufficient collaboration among professionals in their organisation who work in digital trust fields such as security, risk, governance, assurance, privacy, and quality.

Digital trust is key to success

Over three quarters (79%) of respondents recognise that organisations that demonstrate their commitment to digital trust will be more successful. They believe that businesses with high levels of digital trust are more likely to have a positive reputation (70%); experience fewer privacy breaches (57%); experience fewer cybersecurity incidents (55%) and have more reliable data on which to make decisions and have stronger customer loyalty (51%).

Despite respondents highlighting its importance, there is a clear disparity between thought and action when it comes to digital trust.

ISACA’s research finds that only 7% of European business and IT professionals are completely confident in the digital trustworthiness of their organisation, with a staggering one in three (33%) not measuring their digital trust practises at all. Only a quarter (27%) of organisations provide any kind of digital trust training to staff, and 41% do not have a staff role dedicated to digital trust and are unlikely to in the next five years.

Chris Dimitriadis, Chief Global Strategy Officer at ISACA, said: “Businesses recognise the importance of digital trust, but most are struggling to achieve it. Employees aren’t getting the right training to build their skills in this area, and we need to change the record through a combined training and credentialing approach that crosses digital trust domains like cybersecurity, audit, risk, privacy and governance of technology among others. That way, businesses can understand the critical factors that drive organisational success and learn about the strategies and techniques needed to establish and maintain digital trust.”

Barriers to digital trust

There are several barriers to achieving digital trust. According to the research, 41% of respondents cite both a lack of leadership buy-in and a lack of alignment between digital trust and enterprise goals as blockers to progress. A similar number (38%) signal that a lack of budget was a barrier, indicating that businesses are struggling to find the resource and reason to improve the trustworthiness of their organisation.

Similar sentiments were found with regards to the provision of digital trust training. 49% of respondents identify a lack of staff skills and training as an obstacle to achieving high levels of digital trust. The findings indicate the need for businesses to prioritise investment in digital trust training and skills development – from the C-suite right down to entry level employees.

Dimitriadis continues: “To truly achieve digital trust, high levels of collaboration and a holistic approach are essential. From IT and engineering to HR and sales, all departments must now align on how digital trust can be achieved through a unified strategy and then take the steps to do so.

“The organisations that do keep digital trust front of mind will not only protect themselves against cyberattacks, but also protect their businesses’ bottom line by building long term customer loyalty – in turn increasing customer retention. Those that do not will see these things negatively impacted and their business success undermined.”

Rolf von Roessing, ISACA Evangelist, said: “Cyberattacks are on the rise and customers increasingly recognise their sophisticated nature. They’ll therefore expect businesses to take the necessary steps to protect and secure their personal data. Those who adopt a company-wide strategy to build digital trust will establish themselves as a credible authority among customer bases and sustainably reap the long-term rewards.”