There’s no escaping it: cybersecurity events are happening more often, and the fallout is getting worse. In the first half of 2021 alone, there was a 125% rise in global intrusion volumes. We’ve all seen the devastating impacts of recent hacks like Colonial Pipeline and SolarWinds—not just on the affected businesses and their customers, but also society at large.

At the same time, many companies are moving full speed ahead with technology transformation, including a move to cloud, that can introduce new vulnerabilities if security isn’t front of mind. Add to this the rapid uptake of Internet of Things (IoT) devices, edge computing, and 5G networks, and the attack surface has rapidly expanded, giving hackers more to target.

80% of security executives are already applying some form of digital twin technology in their security programs.

The good news is that there is a way for us to get the upper hand in this fight: with the power of intelligent cyber digital twins. They are sophisticated digital representations of physical objects, processes, or systems. When it comes to cybersecurity, intelligent cyber digital twins give us a powerful tool for predicting and mitigating risk.

Intelligent cyber digital twins have the potential to revolutionize cybersecurity through three key actions: fortify, extend, and reinvent. Let’s take a closer look at what each area involves.

Fortify: Doubling down on existing defenses
Right now, cyber digital twins can be used as a sandbox for understanding what security looks like from an attacker’s point of view. They provide a helpful way to understand attackers’ mindsets, potential attack patterns, and their impact. Here’s how:

Most companies are used to testing the security of a system or process just before deployment, and then evaluating changes on deployed applications. Intelligent cyber digital twins make it possible to evaluate changes as if they were made on the real deployed application, without ever touching the production environment—giving a preview of the future security posture.

Likewise, intelligent cyber digital twins make it possible to manage real security incidents more effectively. They help security teams focus resources on the most important tasks, as well as measure how much risk has been reduced and which technologies are most effective in reducing that risk.

Extend: Making security better and broader
In the longer term, intelligent cyber digital twins will unlock even more exciting possibilities. By simulating risks in an environment that mirrors the real world, digital twins help companies get better at predicting where hackers will strike, how the attack will unfold, and how damaging it will be. With this kind of knowledge, organizations can take targeted action to reduce the likelihood and impact of cyber attacks while also staying one step ahead of would-be attackers.

64% of security leaders expect their organization’s investment in intelligent digital cyber twins to increase over the next three years.

Intelligent cyber digital twins will also make it easier for organizations to share data on threats. For instance, if a security team notices unusual activity, by federating cyber digital twins across the business ecosystem, the team could pass the details on to others who might be experiencing similar events. The insights could be helpful for the whole ecosystem to predict and neutralize attacks further down the road.

Reinvent: Preparing for tomorrow
In the future, nearly everything in the physical world will have a digital twin, including infrastructure, supply chains, consumer products, and more. Merging these digital twins will usher in the Mirrored World, forever changing how we all operate, collaborate, and innovate.

While this new world is still years away, thinking about the core management of cyber digital twins is essential today. This includes continually securing how they work, think, and manage sensitive data.

85% of security officers agree that AI combined with digital twins will allow their organizations to scale up defenses and situational awareness in ways that are not otherwise possible.

One solution lies in a flexible “mesh” of integrated and intelligent digital twins. Here, each data node is encapsulated securely, creating data building blocks that are secure by design. With secure data nodes, enterprises could manage data governance, map data flow configurations, and collaborate across ecosystems to solve real-world problems.

Speed your shift
Intelligent cyber digital twins are a way to shift security strategies from reactive to resilient. It’s vital to secure assets today while taking additional steps towards using intelligent cyber digital twins. 

To prepare and make the shift, start by asking these three key questions:

  • Where is your enterprise with digital twin usage today?
  • What should your company do to increase security effectiveness internally and across your business ecosystem?
  • How should your company secure the Mirrored World?

To explore these points in more detail, and learn more about how intelligent cyber digital twins can help evolve your security strategy, check out our full Security Technology Vision 2021 report.

Lisa O'Connor

Managing Director – Accenture Security, Cybersecurity R&D, Accenture Labs

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