Enterprise security skills: the communication factor

How important are good lines of communication as far as the enterprise IT security strategy is concerned? Davey Winder investigates...

BYOD is a perfect example of the battle of wills between a business and its IT security department. A decision needs to be made on where the organisation wants to sit on the security continuum  -  do they condone BYOD and risk security breaches, do they ban all devices and maintain watertight security at the cost of staff productivity, or do they meet somewhere in the middle? That decision needs to be cross-departmental. 

The truth, the partial truth, and nothing like the real truth

Yet, according to the research, nearly half the people questioned said that communication of relevant security risks to executives was 'not effective' and much the same number admitted to 'filtering' anything negative out before reporting stuff. This suggests that the Ponemon research believes collaboration between security risk management and the business is generally either poor, non-existent or adversarial. So what can be done about that? Michael Aminzade, a director of delivery at Trustwave, thinks there's a relatively easy solution. "The reporting lines for risks in an organisation need to be reviewed," he says.

"Risk reporting should go to the internal audit department who then report to the non-exec part of the board. This will help the executive team avoid any conflicts of interest and can move the business forward and make their numbers and profit margins."

So should risk be communicated with senior executives as a matter of procedure within an enterprise IT security strategy, or only when a serious risk is revealed? Indeed, how do you define 'serious' in this context?

Dave Anderson, senior director at Voltage Security, is equally simplistic about the answer to this one as well: "risk should always be part of the discussion. "Senior executives need to understand risk from all aspects, not just financial or IT risk, and understand how the company is mitigating these risks" Anderson says.

"Any risk that negatively impacts the brand, the customer trust and loyalty, or the ability to deliver is a serious risk and should have a quantifiable strategy in place to manage."

Just about everyone we spoke to not only agreed, but did so in the strongest terms, that communicating the current state of security to executives on a regular basis has to be a vital part of any successful enterprise security strategy.

"Many security teams are concerned that providing this visibility to the business may raise concerns," admits Jane Man, product manager at Rapid7. She continues: "But regular communication with meaningful metrics actually enables them to show the progress they're making in reducing risk over time. In addition, having this level of visibility at the executive-level ensures that security risk is taken into account at the time of making business decisions and not as an afterthought."

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