How to take a business-centric approach to security

Hari Vignesh Jayapalan

September 04th, 2017

Today’s enterprise is effectively borderless, because customers and suppliers transact from anywhere in the world, and previously siloed systems are converging on the core network. The shift of services (and data) into the cloud, or many clouds, adds further complexity to the security model. Organizations that continue to invest in traditional information security approaches either fall prey to cyber threats or find themselves unprepared to deal with cyber crimes. 

I think it is about time for organizations to move their cyber security efforts away from traditional defensive approaches to a proactive approach aligned with the organization’s business objectives. 

To illustrate and simplify, let’s classify traditional information security approaches into three types.

IT infrastructure-centric approach

In this traditional model, organizations tend to augment their infrastructure with products of a particular vendor, which form building blocks for their infrastructure. As the IT infrastructure vendors extend their reach into security, they introduce their security portfolio to solve the problems their product generally introduces. Microsoft, IBM, and Oracle are some examples who have complete a range of products in IT Infrastructure space. In most such cases the decision maker would be the CIO or Infrastructure Manger with little involvement from the CISO and Business representatives.

Security-centric approach

This is another traditional model whereby security products and services are selected based upon discrete needs and budgets. Generally, only research reports are referred and products with high rating are considered, with a “rip-and-replace” mentality rather than any type of long-term allegiance. Vendors like FireEye, Fortinet, Palo Alto Networks, Symantec, and Trend Micro fall in this category. Generally, the CISO or security team is involved with little to no involvement from the CIO or Business representatives.

Business-centric approach

This is an emerging approach, wherein decisions affecting cybersecurity of an organization are made jointly by corporate boards, CIOs, and CISOs. This new approach helps organizations to plan for an effective security program which is driven by business requirements with a holistic scope including all business representatives, CIO, CISO, 3rd parties, suppliers& partners; this improves the cybersecurity effectiveness, operational efficiency and helps to align enterprise goals and objectives. 

The traditional approaches to cybersecurity are no longer working, as the critical link between the business and cybersecurity are missing. These approaches are generally governed by enterprise boundaries which no longer exist with the advent of cloud computing, mobile & social networking. Another limitation with traditional approaches, they are very audit-centric and compliance driven, which means the controls are limited by audit domain and driven largely by regulatory requirements.

Business-centric approach to security

Add in new breeds of threat that infiltrate corporate networks and it is clear that CIOs should be adopting a more business-centric security model. Security should be a business priority, not just an IT responsibility. 

So, what are the key components of a business-centric security approach?

Culture

Organizations must foster a security conscious culture whereby every employee is aware of potential risks, such as malware propagated via email or saving corporate data to personal cloud services, such as Dropbox. This is particularly relevant for organizations that have a BYOD policy (and even more so for those that don’t and are therefore more likely to beat risk of shadow IT). According to a recent Deloitte survey, 70 per cent of organizations rate their employees’ lack of security awareness as an ‘average’ or ‘high’ vulnerability. Today’s tech-savvy employees are accessing the corporate network from all sorts of devices, so educating them around the potential risks is critical.

Policy and procedures

As we learned from the Target data breach, the best technologies are worthless without incident response processes in place. The key outcome of effective policy and procedures is the ability to adapt to evolving threats; that is, to incorporate changes to the threat landscape in a cost-effective manner.

Controls

Security controls deliver policy enforcement and provide hooks for delivering security information to visibility and response platforms. In today’s environment, business occurs across, inside and outside the office footprint, and infrastructure connectivity is increasing. As a result, controls for the environment need to extend to where the business operates. Key emergent security controls include:

  • Uniform application security controls (on mobile, corporate and infrastructure platforms)
  • Integrated systems for patch management
  • Scalable environment segmentation (such as for PCI compliance)
  • Enterprise Mobility Application Management for consumer devices
  • Network architectures with Edge-to-Edge Encryption

Monitoring and management

A 24×7 monitoring and response capability is critical. While larger enterprises tend to build their own Security Operations Centers, the high cost of having staff around the clock and the need to find and retain skilled security resources is too costly for the medium enterprise. Moreover, according to Verizon Enterprise Solutions, companies only discover breaches through their own monitoring in 31 per cent of cases. An outsourced solution is the best option, as it enables organisations to employ sophisticated technologies and processes to detect security incidents, but in a cost-effective manner.

A shift in focus

It’s never been more critical for organizations to have a robust security strategy. But despite the growing number of high-profile data breaches, too much information security spending is dedicated to the prevention of attacks, and not enough is going into improving (or establishing) policies and procedures, controls and monitoring capabilities. A new approach to security is needed, where the focus is on securing information from the inside out, rather than protecting information from the outside in. There is still value in implementing endpoint security software as a preventative measure, but those steps now need to be part of a larger strategy that must address the fact that so much information is outside the corporate network. 

The bottom line is, planning Cybersecurity with a business-centric approach can lead to concrete gains in productivity, revenue, and customer retention. If your organization is among the majority of firms that don’t, now would be a great time to start. 

About the Author 

Hari Vignesh Jayapalan is a Google Certified Android app developer, IDF Certified UI & UX Professional, street magician, fitness freak, technology enthusiast, and wannabe entrepreneur. He can be found on Twitter @HariofSpades.