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Social Isolation and Digital Transformation: Opportunity and Risk in the Time of Coronavirus
With an anticipated infection rate of between 40% and 70% (1), the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, will undoubtedly have a massive impact on the world. Because the most effective way to prevent infection is to avoid contact with the infected, coronavirus will shape the way people interact socially, professionally, and economically. 

"You may need to take a break from your normal daily routine for two weeks," Dr. Nancy Messonnier, Director of the CDC National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. (2)

What does a two week, or even longer, interruption in daily life and limited social interaction mean for the average person? How will it impact their habits, behaviors, and decisions? What can be inferred from instances of quarantine which have already taken place in China and elsewhere? And what role will digital technologies play in all of this?

The coronavirus already has had an impact on purchasing habits and health routines in China and Italy, in addition to many cities across the United States as citizens are confined to their homes due to quarantine. According to Daniel Ahmad, a Senior Analyst at Niko Partners (an Asian entertainment market analysis firm), the combination of isolation and a desire to stay healthy have created a shortage of a new fitness video game recently released by Nintendo titled Ring Fit Adventure (3) (4).

tweet ring fit 

Consider this specific surge in demand for a videogame meant to make enduring a quarantine more manageable when combined with the overall global trend towards in-home delivery of goods and services. The past decade has seen the explosive growth of brands like Uber Eats, DoorDash and Postmates (5), as well as the overall dominance of Amazon as the purveyor of every good imaginable directly to our doorsteps. 

It's not far-fetched to anticipate that this global pandemic, the ubiquitous and still increasing adoption of eCommerce-driven delivery services (including food, goods and labor), and mandated social isolation will combine to drive consumers to interact with companies online even more so than they do today.

If given a choice between picking up essentials from the local drug store while maintaining a three meter distance from any other person, obsessively washing your hands, and risking exposure to a deadly disease, or, simply tapping an app and having the same goods brought to directly to your home, which do you think you would be more likely to choose?

For years, digital transformation has been the byword of essentially every business. Forbes estimates 70% of businesses have a digital transformation strategy in place and that 40% of all technology in 2019 went towards implementing digital strategy (6). It seems now, given the confluence of factors present in the world today, that the question will not be if those figures were too high, but if businesses have underestimated how essential digital transformation would become in 2020. If even Las Vegas is feeling the impact of reduced travel (7), how much upside does that represent for companies who can appeal to those consumers who would rather weather the storm at home?

A second consideration for businesses evaluating their stance towards the global pandemic is whether or not their digital infrastructure can handle the demands of both additional online consumers as well as additional remote workers. A traditional concern is existing information technology infrastructure and how well it can support the increased demand caused by a surge in remote workers (8).

A more novel concern, however, is the increased focus that hackers have placed upon compromising and profiting from the exploitation of online commerce. Consider modern browser-based attacks targeting website visitors, such as those used by Magecart, and the rapid adoption of those techniques in the past year, when combined with the factors described previously driving demand towards online commerce.

Given that Magecart, just one example of a modern attack on eCommerce, was responsible for over 18,000 infected websites last year alone (9), the landscape seems ripe for further adoption of online commerce by house-bound consumers to fuel further innovation from attackers who look to profit from digital transactions.  The already inevitable drive towards a primarily digital economy, catalyzed by an international health crisis, provides immense opportunity for businesses to serve their customers in new ways. It also provides immense opportunity for criminals to exploit that surge in digital adoption.

It is imperative for organizations to consider the proper response to emergent, environmental challenges to business such as the coronavirus in a way which best supports their customers, their employees and their bottom lines. Within that response, a strong cybersecurity strategy which includes the application of next-generation technologies, such as those developed by Source Defense, Signal Sciences and other innovative firms who aim to extend security into the visitor's client itself, are a key component of supporting the new influx of traffic and business which newly homebound consumers are creating.

Sources

  1. https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/q-a-coronaviruses
  2. https://arstechnica.com/science/2020/03/118-us-coronavirus-cases-9-deaths-as-ramped-up-testing-uncovers-hidden-spread/
  3. https://www.abacusnews.com/china-tech-city/demand-ring-fit-adventure-nintendo-switch-soars-china-coronavirus-keeps-gamers-home/article/3048959
  4. https://twitter.com/ZhugeEX/status/1230637046915641344
  5. https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/technology-media-and-telecommunications/our-insights/the-changing-market-for-food-delivery
  6. https://www.forbes.com/sites/blakemorgan/2019/12/16/100-stats-on-digital-transformation-and-customer-experience/#11a04fad3bf3
  7. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/03/business/coronavirus-business-travel.html?searchResultPosition=6
  8. https://www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/with-coronavirus-in-mind-are-you-ready-for-remote-work/
  9. https://www.forbes.com/sites/leemathews/2019/10/11/over-18000-websites-infested-with-magecart-card-skimming-malware/#357302cb7b1d

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About the Author

Matt McGuirk, Professional Services Engineer, North America and Europe at Source Defense

Matt McGuirk 

Matt McGuirk is a Solution Engineer and researcher at Source Defense with a focus on browser-session JavaScript vulnerabilities. He has over fifteen years of experience in full-stack web development and related technologies. He is a subject matter expert in JavaScript, browser behavior, and user experience on the web. Matt frequently consults with Fortune 500 companies across a broad range of industries to help them define the best solution to address the threat posed by Magecart.
Published Wednesday, March 25, 2020 11:50 AM by David Marshall
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