Transform IT security process into business action, CSOs advise

CSOs must focus less on technology and proactively engage the business by framing security risks in business terms, developing detailed worst-case models and reworking IT security risk assessment processes around business requirements, a report from the Security for Business Innovation Council has advised.

The report – which was sponsored by RSA Security and aggregated advice from IT security executives from the likes of ABB Amro, Coca-Cola, eBay, FedEx, Intel, Johnson & Johnson and Walmart – highlighted the dangers of relying on “ad-hoc processes put in place for the days of perimeter-based security” and advocated an “overhaul” of information-security processes to keep up with the contemporary landscape.

“A key aspect of risk management is having a process in place to ensure that for every initiative in your organisation, a risk assessment is done at a very early stage in the lifecycle,” HDFC Bank CISO Vishal Salvi advised.

Surveyed CSOs identified five key areas where capabilities were typically far behind the curve, including risk measurement, business engagement, security controls, third-party risk assessments, and threat detection.

“The information security team must advise business leaders on how to manage cyber security risks, report on 'materiality', or demonstrate 'adequacy',” the report advises. “This is difficult to do if risk is only described in technical terms such as the number of intrusions or vulnerabilities.”

Noting that many companies' risk assessment methodologies are still based on “cumbersome manual methods”, the report recommends an “easy and efficient” process for identifying and tracking IT security risks, with a move from sporadic IT assessments to a process of continuous re-evaluation of security risks.

“The health of security controls should be measured as a continuity of capabilities,” the report warns, noting that conventional annual audits of risk assessment are inadequate for countering the contemporary threat.

Given the growing use of security and other service providers, the report advised that organisations should ensure that they are also able to audit the controls and processes in place at those providers.

“If I'm going to accept a shared assessment, an attestation from a third party, I'd like to know 'what is the evidence that the controls they have committed to are actually working on an ongoing basis?'” ADP CSO Roland Cloutier advised.

Such information needs to be rolled into a comprehensive threat-detection infrastructure, it advises, that aggregates live security data from around the organisation and uses it for forensic and real-time detection of threats.

“Intelligence-driven security makes use of data analytics, enables alerts on behaviours indicative of exploitation, and provides threat context,” the report advises. “It requires the collection and analysis of data from a wide range of sources. Yet most security teams are still unsure about what data to collect and how to perform meaningful analysis.”

The surveyed CSOs offered five specific action points to help organisations improve their security approach: shifting the focus from technical assets to critical business processes; instituting business estimates of cyber security risks; establishing a business-centric risk assessment process; setting a course for evidence-based controls assurance; and developing informed data-collection methods.

Each area is elaborated on within the report, highlighting action points and examples of approaches to take to achieve the desired outcomes.

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