IT Risk Management :The Evolving Nature

Peter Cooper, Group Information Security Manager, Woolworths says the value IT can bring "is to do what we do faster. The best value we can bring to our important business colleagues is help business processes. But doing things faster brings new risk".

That means we need to find new ways to manage IT security and risk management in ways that support this new, faster world.

Cooper likens the challenge facing CSOs as being like the difference between gambling and risk management. In his view, about 60% of a company's share price is historical and 40% is expected future earnings. When the stock market trades a particular share, it's really the fluctuation of the 40% that they are gambling with, not the entire share price.

When looking at how a casino operates roulette tables, the difference between the odds of a gambler winning and losing are very small. But the odds are slightly in favour of the casino owner. For the players, winning is a gamble whereas for the owner, there's an acceptance that there may be some losses but for the most part the odds favour them winning.

Traditional IT management

Cooper used the example of a rock climber to highlight active risk management. Although rock climbing might look like a risky activity, a well-equipped climber uses strong ropes and other equipment. Although these might be heavy and cause some impedance to the climber, they offer a balance between the danger and benefit.

In contrast, Cooper compared this with a tandem skydiver. With the tandem skydiver, the risk is shared between the leader and "passenger".

However, the rock climber has full control but bears all the risk. There's also a significant effort involved in becoming a competent rock climber whereas a tandem skydive requires little preparation.

When it comes to risk management, Cooper sees a shift towards finding partners with whom to share risks rather than doing it all ourselves. He sees the tandem skydiver becoming a model for the future rather than a complete do-it-yourself model like the rock climber.

Moving forward

Part of this transition is a shift from being builders of systems to brokers of services - we need to change our IT risk management accordingly. One place IT security practitioners can start is by looking at their KPIs. Cooper asked the audience how many had a KPI measuring security as an enabler and how many had data protection as a KPI.

The results of this informal survey comprehensively showed that companies are still focussed on risk management as a blocker rather than an enabler. Cooper sees this as a conundrum for CISOs and CSOs. Businesses want to embark on new activities and take some risks in increasing their markets but there is a reticence by security professionals as their KPIs don't reward enabling, but potentially risky, behaviours. There's a need to find a balancing point between the two postures that Cooper is not seeing amongst his peer network.

This article is brought to you by Enex TestLab, content directors for CSO Australia.

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Tags IT risk managementmeasuring securityrisk preparationbenefitPeter Cooper (ISM Woolworths)riskCISOsCSOmanage IT securityBusiness Processesnetworksystems managementsystemssecurity and risk management

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