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Book excerpt: Achieving digital trust in the information age

In this book excerpt, Jeffrey Ritter explains the essential attributes of digital trust and why it's so important to business success in the information age.

Technology empowers users by providing immediate accessibility to information, allowing for real-time communications to benefit businesses and consumers alike. These same benefits, however, could dramatically undermine the effectiveness of how information is used to make decisions, according to frequent TechTarget contributor Jeffrey Ritter.

Ritter pointed to Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff's comments at the 2015 World Economic Forum, where Benioff declared that "the digital revolution needs a trust revolution." In Ritter's new book, Achieving Digital Trust: The New Rules for Business at the Speed of Light, he responds to Benioff's call to action by outlining new ways to approach digital trust, information governance, data security and commerce

The book includes information to enable IT architects, developers, lawyers, and compliance team members to work more efficiently when doing their jobs, Ritter said. This excerpt consists of the preface and first three chapters, and introduces the essential attributes of digital trust. The book is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle versions.

Across the world, daily headlines confirm there is a global war for control of digital information. The targets are immense -- Sony, Target, Boeing, JP Morgan, Chase, Home Depot, AT&T, eBay, Google, power utilities, airlines, and virtually every governmental agency in any nation. The targets are small -- your credit card, your browsing history, your calls for taxi services, your health data, and your preferences for beer.

This war is being shaped by weapons of attack we have heard about -- Stuxnet, Backoff, DDoS, Gauss, malware, sniffers, and eyeglasses that film you punching in ATM passwords. This war is being shaped by weapons of attack that have yet to be created, designed to exploit the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of new technologies that, themselves, have yet to be invented.

The objective in this war is simple -- to gain control of the digital knowledge assets each of us seeks to use in the decisions we make every day:

  • Important decisions like picking the best schools for our children or choosing the doctor to perform life-altering surgery.
  • Small decisions like finding the gas station with the best prices.
  • "Bet it all" decisions that place a nation, a company, a division, an employee team, or the wealth saved across generations at risk -- the decisions that leave you sweating bullets and not sleeping.

When the information you need to make decisions is controlled, the quality of your decision is controlled and the possible outcomes from which you can choose slip from your control. Where there is less information, your decisions become vulnerable. As an executive, an IT architect, an investment manager, an educational director, or even a parent, your job is to lead with good decisions.

You want your decisions to be ones that others will follow. But those ambitions erode when those fighting the war to control digital information are winning.

In reading this book, you will explore and acquire an entirely new portfolio of tools and strategies to help shift the momentum of that war. As in any combat or battle, to succeed, it is essential for you to understand what is at stake. What we are facing is more than a war to control information. It is a war on our ability to trust information. Yes, a war on trust.

Download/Read the full excerpt.

Next Steps

Read more from Jeffrey Ritter on information governance, including why new data classifications are essential to data security and how the increased reliance on digital evidence in court cases is changing companies' data management processes.

This was last published in March 2016

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Do you think "digital trust" is important to modern companies' success? Why or why not?
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It depends on the nature of the company in question. If that company relies on location-based services to provide services to their customer, or if they rely on the customer to provide information on which recommendations are made, then a lack of digital trust is certainly important to their success.
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I think digital trust is also important to modern companies from a compliance standpoint. When conducting audits, businesses (and regulators) have to make sure the GRC data being logged/tracked/reported is reliable and accurate. If this data isn't high quality and lacks "digital trust", it can result  in compliance violations that hurt a company's bottom line and reputation with consumers.
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Absolutely. Many of my clients use their information security programs as competitive advantages. I think if you are naïve in this area, you'll be left behind, not to mention be at risk of getting into hot water.
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Trust is the major brand building factor that matters for the modern companies today. Once the customer trusts you, the number of customers will automatically increase. You would be the first option coming to their mind  before other companies that sell a similar kind of product that your company does.
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Ritter makes a good point about the control of information. Giving up control of our information places potentially severe limits on the outcomes we can choose from, and this is what’s fueling the lack of  digital trust.
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The trend of companies giving up control of information isn't going away anytime soon either, as growing data volumes and network scope force companies to outsource information management duties. This will only increase the lack of digital trust that is particularly harmful to modern companies that rely on high-quality, trustworthy data to conduct business transactions.
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