Information security – the changing face

In a previous article, I discussed the changing shape of Information Security and the influence it is having on the future of business—through an expanding scope and stakeholder base—and the resultant need to review how it is positioned organisationally. The other equally important element that complements the changing shape of Information Security is the changing face of Information Security specialists.

We all know that the unrelenting pace of technology change has driven many organisations to rethink business strategies and models to embrace new capabilities and extend their market reach. Increasingly this means the boundaries between IT and business are being blurred. Many companies would collapse—even in the short term—without their IT. Furthermore the changing technology and business world comes with an overlay of a growing regulatory, audit, compliance and threat landscape. This presents a major challenge to managing typically resource-strapped Information Security.

Keeping across evolving technology on all its levels is nothing new for Information Security specialists, this is, after all, bread and butter—their passion, and what they have always done best. But to step into the shoes of the business and its consumers and consider security in terms of agility, flexibility, compliance, awareness, strategic direction, pragmatism, and so on, is another ball game entirely. These are whole new skill sets for most Information Security specialists that they now require to be effective in their work. That these remain elusive (I would suggest) is, in large part, because we are stuck in the past and not thinking outside the square.

Despite business powering onwards and upwards with new technologies, business structures tend to remain static. This is no exception for Information Security. If I have already urged a review of the positioning of Information Security in the organisational structure, it follows that I also urge a review of what an Information Security specialist is, and what their skills look like. There is so much more to know and understand now, and so many skills that haven’t figured in this space until recently. Soft skills and non-technical skills are now critically important in handling the creeping scope of Information Security—and to overcome the general reticence of business stakeholders to engage. But how often does one find a masterful technologist that is also a masterful administrator/communicator/business driver/compliance expert? They exist, rarely.

In my opinion, the changing needs of the business must be supported and guided by an holistic Information Security capability that can no longer subscribe to the traditional one-size-fits-all team model, but rather a combination of complimentary skill sets. Information Security can comprise virtual members and perhaps outsource some functions. There can be dotted line reports, formalised security responsibilities arching across the organisation to leverage existing and specialised skills both technical and non-technical (such as communications or legal) to build the broader skills required without demanding it all from a single Information Security team. I’m not saying get rid of the Information Security team but rather leverage and diversify. This approach certainly works in other areas of the business and IT, and can also be a successful model for Information Security—in fact I would suggest this is the ideal model.

Done correctly, an incorporated Information Security structure will be targeted, agile, effective and efficient. Benefits are many, including broader exposure of Information Security practices and more timely risk management, increased business engagement, relevance and awareness with the ultimate benefit being cost savings to the business. Sharing the load makes sense—after all security is everyone’s responsibility.

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