Building a business case for information security

Khalid Kark offers five key points for articulating the value of infosecurity.

If the economic downturn has proven anything, it's that many CISOs still struggle to articulate the value of their security programs and justify the security budget to business and executive management. Many helplessly watched their budgets slashed, their projects postponed, and their employees laid-off.

Many CISOs are experiencing a rapidly changing environment today where business is demanding more of the security organization, consumerization of IT is usurping control and new architectures are required to address issues of shrinking perimeter, virtualization and web 2.0 technologies. At Forrester's upcoming Security Forum, we'll take a closer look at these three significant shifts and how to address and effectively communicate these changes to business.

While some of the lay-offs and budget cuts may have been necessary, many CISOs wonder whether stronger relationships with the business or better articulation of their message would have made any difference. Forrester worked with to some of the most successful CISOs at large, global organizations, and developed these five categories that help articulate the value of information security to the business: reputation, regulation, resilience, revenue, and recession.

Depending on your audience, we recommend that you use all or some combination of these business value categories to make the case for continued investment in your security program.

Reputation

The impact of security breaches on well-established brands in recent years has resulted in huge financial losses. Not only are the external threats from the hacking community becoming more sophisticated and targeted, the amount of damage done by internal threats--the intentional or unintentional actions by your own users--has also been steadily increasing over the years.

CISOs must underscore the importance of security on the company's reputation by protecting against an increasingly complicated internal and external threat paradigm, and preventing abuse from third-parties and business partners.

One pharmaceutical company we spoke with started getting complaints of adverse patient reactions from a geography where they had miniscule sales. The security team, working in conjunction with the fraud department, was able to uncover that a business partner account had accessed manufacturing details and packing specifications for the product a few months back. Moreover, this partner was suspiciously monitoring the business and marketing plans from a centralized server. Upon further investigation, it was discovered that counterfeit drugs were being manufactured and sold in that geography under the same brand name. [Editor's note: See Drug Busters for an in-depth look at preventing pharmaceutical counterfeiting at another company.] By stopping the activity, the security team protected the corporate brand from further damage.

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