IT security strategy breaking through to highest organisational levels: EY

A growing proportion of organisations are recognising information security as a high-level business function, according to recently released research from consulting firm Ernst & Young (EY).

Although the need for business to take a more active role in IT security decision-making has long been recognised by many in the industry, the fact that EY found 70 percent of respondents to EY's 2013 Global Information Security Survey now own information-security strategies at the highest organisational level suggests the message is finally getting through.

This has translated into better visibility for CSOs and their equivalents, 35 per cent of whom reported presenting on information security straight to the board on a quarterly basis. Another 10 per cent of information-security professionals reported straight to the CEO, while 1 in 10 of respondents reported on IT security on a monthly basis.

Given that no IT security professionals were reporting to senior executives monthly a year ago, that last result was heralded by EY as a significant step towards the necessary higher visibility of security as a business function.

“Information security is now seen as vital to the ongoing health and success of the organisation,” the report observes.

“Formal security operations (antivirus, IDS, IPS, patching, encryption, etc.) are mature in a majority of organisations.”

Fully 60 per cent of respondents said their security operations were 'very mature' or 'mature', although the percentages were lower for security testing (36 per cent), security awareness and training (30 per cent), and security governance and management (28 per cent).

On the other end of the scale, however, many surveyed organisations still had a way to go: 29 per cent said their security testing and security awareness methodologies were 'not yet developed' or 'non-existent', while 31 per cent said the same about their security governance and management.

Improving these capabilities remained high on the list of top corporate priorities in the next 12 months, with business continuity/disaster recovery named as the top priority by 51 per cent of respondents and addressing cyber risks and threats named by 38 per cent. Fully 26 per cent were prioritising a reduction in data leakage and data loss prevention, while 25 per cent were undergoing a fundamental redesign of their information-security practices.

Importantly, those efforts will be supported with greater investment from the top of the organisation: 43 per cent said their information-security budgets are rising, 46 per cent are aligning their information-security strategies with the business strategy, and 46 per cent of security spend will be directed at security improvement, expansion and innovation – as opposed to the traditional focus on security operations and maintenance.

With fully 65 per cent of the respondents citing budget constraints as their biggest obstacle, the reapportionment of security funding represents a continued focus for organisations as they work to align IT, business and risk-management objectives. Some 62 per cent of respondents said they still have not aligned their IT security strategy to corporate risk appetite or tolerance guidelines.

“Organisations must signal support from the top to be proactive and ready for the unknown,” the report advises. “Those that are satisfied with merely being reactive may not survive the next attack.”

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