Hacking: How Ready Is Your Enterprise?

Recent corporate data security challenges require companies to ask hard questions about enterprise readiness:

1)      How do you know if your firm is next in line?
2)      How well will your Information Technology team respond to an attempted breach?

Is your firm ready?

HackingOver the last year, a number of high profile data security breaches have taken place at major US corporations. However, as a business person, how do you know the answers to the above questions.  Do you know what is at risk? And as well with big data gathering so much attention these days, isn’t it kind of like putting all the eggs into one basket? According to the management scholar, Theodore Levitt, part of being a manager is the ability to ask questions. My goal today is to arm business managers with the questions to ask so they can determine the answers to both of the above questions.

Is your Big Data secure?

HackingBig Data is all the buzz today. How safe are your Big Data spaces? Do you know what is going into each of them? Judith Hurwitz, the President and CEO of Hurwitz & Associates, says that she worries about big data security. Judith even suggests that big data “introduces security risks into the company, unintended consequences can endanger the company”. According to Judith, these risks come in two forms:

1)      Big data sources can contain viruses as well as other forms of business risk
2)      Big data lakes if unprotected represent a major business risk from hacking

Clearly, protecting your big data comprehensively requires diligence, including data encryption. But just remember, big data may seem like a science project in the back room, but it puts in one place a significant volume of data that could damage your enterprise if exposed to the outside world.

Do you need better tools or better business processes?

SecurityWhile many of the discussions about recent hacks have focused on the importance of having the right and up to date tools in place, it is just as important to have the right business processes in place if you want to minimize the possibility of a breach and minimizes losses when a breach occurs.

From an accessibility and security prospective, security processes look at the extent to which access to information is restricted appropriately to authorized parties. Next, from an information management perspective, they should consider the entire information life cycle. Information should be protected during all phases of its life cycle. Security should start at the information planning phase, and for many, this implies different protection mechanisms for storing, sharing, and disposition of information.

To determine what questions a business person should be asking their security professionals, I went to COBIT 5. For those who do not know, COBIT is the standard your auditors use to evaluate your company’s technology per Sarbanes Oxley. Understanding what it recommends matters because CFOs that we have talked to say that after the recent hacks they believe they are about to get increased scrutiny from their auditors. If you want to understand what auditors will look for, you should study COBIT 5. COBIT 5 has even linked its security policy guidance to what your IT security management team should be running against—one more term, ISO/IEC 27000 standard. Want to impress your security management professionals? Ask them whether they are in compliance with ISO/IEC 27000.

Good information security requires policies and procedures

Now, let’s explore what COBIT 5 recommends for information governance and security. The first thing it recommends is that good information security requires policies and procedures are created and put in place. This sounds pretty reasonable. However, COBIT next insists—something that we all know is true as managers– enterprise culture and ethics are critical to making “security policies and procedures effective”.

What metrics then should business people use to judge whether their firm is managing information security appropriately. COBIT 5 suggest that you look for two things right off the top.

1)      How recently did your IT organization conduct a risk assessment for the services that it provides?
2)      Does your IT organization have a current security plan which is accepted and communication throughout the enterprise?

For the first, it is important that you then ask what percentage of IT services and programs are covered by a risk assessment and what percentage of security incidents taking place were not identified in the risk assessment. The first question tells you how actively your IT is managing security and the second tells you whether there a gaps and risks. Your goal here should be to ensure that “IT-related enterprise risk does not exceed your risk appetite and your risk tolerance”.

With regards to the security plan, you should be asking your IT leadership (your CIO or CISO) about the number of key security roles that have been clearly defined and about the number of security related incidents over time. As important, find out how many security solutions currently deviate from plan?  A timely review of these could clearly impact your probability of getting your systems hacked.

As a manager, you know that teams need policies and procedures to limit errors from happening and to manage them when they occur. So ask what are the procedures for managing through a security event? As important, ask about the percentage of services are confirmed to have alignment with the security plan. At the same time, you want to know about the number of security incidents caused by non-adherence to the security plan. For the future, you want to make sure as well that all new solutions being developed have from launch confirmed their alignment to the security plan.

Other critical things to consider include the number of security incidents that have caused financial loss, business disruption, and public embarrassment. This of course is a big one that should be small in number. Then ask about the number of IT services with outstanding security requirements? Next, what is the time required to grant, change, and remove access privileges and the frequency of security assessment against the latest standards and guidelines.

Concluding Remarks

Security is one area that you really need IT-Business Alignment. It is important, as a business professional, that you do your best to ensure that IT builds policies and procedures that conform to your corporate risk appetite. As well you need to assure that the governance, policies, and procedures for your IT organization run against are kept current and update. This includes ensuring that the data is governed from end to end in the IT environment.

Related links

Solutions: Enterprise Level Data Security
The State of Data Centric Security
Gambling With Your Customer’s Financial Data
Twitter: @MylesSuer