3 Steps to Proactively Address Board-Level Security Concerns

By E.G. Nadhan, HP

Last month, I shared the discussions that ensued in a Tweet Jam conducted by The Open Group on Big Data and Security where the key takeaway was: Protecting Data is Good.  Protecting Information generated from Big Data is priceless.  Security concerns around Big Data continue to the extent that it has become a Board-level concern as explained in this article in ComputerWorldUK.  Board-level concerns must be addressed proactively by enterprises.  To do so, enterprises must provide the business justification for such proactive steps needed to address such board-level concerns.

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At The Open Group Conference in Sydney in April, the session on “Which information risks are shaping our lives?” by Stephen Singam, Chief Technology Officer, HP Enterprise Security Services, Australia provides great insight on this topic.  In this session, Singam analyzes the current and emerging information risks while recommending a proactive approach to address them head-on with adversary-centric solutions.

The 3 steps that enterprises must take to proactively address security concerns are below:

Computing the cost of cyber-crime

The HP Ponemon 2012 Cost of Cyber Crime Study revealed that cyber attacks have more than doubled in a three year period with the financial impact increasing by nearly 40 percent. Here are the key takeaways from this research:

  • Cyber-crimes continue to be costly. The average annualized cost of cyber-crime for 56 organizations is $8.9 million per year, with a range of $1.4 million to $46 million.
  • Cyber attacks have become common occurrences. Companies experienced 102 successful attacks per week and 1.8 successful attacks per company per week in 2012.
  • The most costly cyber-crimes are those caused by denial of service, malicious insiders and web-based attacks.

When computing the cost of cyber-crime, enterprises must address direct, indirect and opportunity costs that result from the loss or theft of information, disruption to business operations, revenue loss and destruction of property, plant and equipment. The following phases of combating cyber-crime must also be factored in to comprehensively determine the total cost:

  1. Detection of patterns of behavior indicating an impending attack through sustained monitoring of the enabling infrastructure
  2. Investigation of the security violation upon occurrence to determine the underlying root cause and take appropriate remedial measures
  3. Incident response to address the immediate situation at hand, communicate the incidence of the attack raise all applicable alerts
  4. Containment of the attack by controlling its proliferation across the enterprise
  5. Recovery from the damages incurred as a result of the attack to ensure ongoing business operations based upon the business continuity plans in place

Identifying proactive steps that can be taken to address cyber-crime

  1. “Better get security right,” says HP Security Strategist Mary Ann Mezzapelle in her keynote on Big Data and Security at The Open Group Conference in Newport Beach. Asserting that proactive risk management is the most effective approach, Mezzapelle challenged enterprises to proactively question the presence of shadow IT, data ownership, usage of security tools and standards while taking a comprehensive approach to security end-to-end within the enterprise.
  2. Art Gilliland suggested that learning from cyber criminals and understanding their methods in this ZDNet article since the very frameworks enterprises strive to comply with (such as ISO and PCI) set a low bar for security that adversaries capitalize on.
  3. Andy Ellis discussed managing risk with psychology instead of brute force in his keynote at the 2013 RSA Conference.
  4. At the same conference, in another keynote, world re-knowned game-designer and inventor of SuperBetter, Jane McGonigal suggested the application of the “collective intelligence” that gaming generates can combat security concerns.
  5. In this interview, Bruce Schneier, renowned security guru and author of several books including LIARS & Outliers, suggested “Bad guys are going to invent new stuff — whether we want them to or not.” Should we take a cue from Hollywood and consider the inception of OODA loop into the security hacker’s mind?

The Balancing Act.

Can enterprises afford to take such proactive steps? Or more importantly, can they afford not to?

Enterprises must define their risk management strategy and determine the proactive steps that are best in alignment with their business objectives and information security standards.  This will enable organizations to better assess the cost of execution for such measures.  While the actual cost is likely to vary by enterprise, inaction is not an acceptable alternative.  Like all other critical corporate initiatives, these proactive measures must receive the board-level attention they deserve.

Enterprises must balance the cost of executing such proactive measures against the potential cost of data loss and reputational harm. This will ensure that the right proactive measures are taken with executive support.

How about you?  Has your enterprise taken the steps to assess the cost of cybercrime?  Have you considered various proactive steps to combat cybercrime?  Share your thoughts with me in the comments section below.

NadhanHP Distinguished Technologist, E.G.Nadhan has over 25 years of experience in the IT industry across the complete spectrum of selling, delivering and managing enterprise level solutions for HP customers. He is the founding co-chair for The Open Group SOCCI project and is also the founding co-chair for the Open Group Cloud Computing Governance project. Twitter handle @NadhanAtHP.

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