It's the Information, Stupid

Security pros won't succeed unless they broaden their focus from the infrastructure that houses information to the security of the information itself. BT Senior Security Consultant Jason Stradley explains how to get there.

Over the past several years there have been changes in the business environment, causing fundamental alterations in how security organizations operate to protect the enterprises for which they have responsibility.

An evolution in the nature, methods, and motivation behind the perpetration of security breaches [Timeline: 4 Years of Data Breaches] has had a profound impact on the importance of protecting data and information. This is a shift from the traditional approach of protecting the infrastructure on which the data resides.

The focus of this article is to identify ways that information in the enterprise can be inappropriately removed and a framework for how to mitigate these risks and protect your organization from the potential litigation, fines, and sheer embarrassment that can follow from such an event.

The unprecedented transformation in the nature and consequences of security breaches is causing a shift in the way security practitioners specifically and business leaders in general must think about the security of information within the enterprise.

The job of a security professional over the past few years has undergone a metamorphosis in response. This metamorphosis has taken the security practitioner from a completely interrupt-driven existence of a firefighter constantly on the alert for an attack, to more of a detective engaged in constant investigation to understand whether or not there has been significant data loss from a silent assailant, one whose biggest goal next to gaining that information is keeping anonymity intact.

Hackers in the early part of the decade were eager to show their skills by perpetrating blatant attacks such as the defacement of a website home page or by bringing a mail server to its knees through a constant bombardment of useless traffic, thereby preventing legitimate users from gaining access. Today hacking is governed by a whole new paradigm, that of profit. It's all about making money the old fashioned way -- by stealing it. Today hacking is a multi-billion dollar enterprise whose sole goal is to acquire any type of information that is believed to be of value to anyone who is willing to pay for it. Hackers today go out of their way to keep their existence a secret from their victims for as long as possible in order to farm the maximum amount of information before having to go to the expense of searching for and infiltrating another victim.

Given the reality of our changed world, we as security practitioners must change along with it. We must extend our focus from the security of the infrastructure that houses the information to the security of the information itself. The primary mission of the security practitioner must be reconsidered to be successful.

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