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IT Security from the Ogas at the Top!

Optimizing Your IT Strategy for Risk Management. IT departments know that they need to modernize, but a fundamental cultural change requires leadership from the top of the org chart, according to one consultant and author.“This is not just information security,” said John Pironti, president of IP Architects. “This is true business alignment.” Pironti speaks on the subject at events like the ISACA International Conference.

“Security has to start at the top,” he said. The board of directors of the company decides where the risks lie. The IT manager becomes the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO), reporting to the CIO and also to the board.

“Most security people don’t understand risk — they understand threats,” Pironti said. “Threats are just one input into the risk equation. Others come from operations, strategy, and marketing.

“Where does the business find value? Most executives are more worried about availability than security,” he added. “Organizations will sometimes leave systems up if they’re compromised because availability wins. You don’t need security if you can’t have availability.”

Pironti explained that he’s not arguing for less security. In some cases, less security may make sense. “If it’s marketing data that I give away at trade shows and I want people to have it, then go ahead and sniff away on the network.” Instead, he argues for more appropriate and effective security. “I’m arguing for a meaningful analysis of security needs based on conversations, deployed in areas with a high threat likelihood and a high impact to the business if a threat occurred. The many controls now in place may not make sense.”

For example, Pironti said that many datacenters have bulletproof glass even in non-military environments where a frontal assault on the datacenter is not expected.

“If we have other filters, do we still need a stateful inspection firewall? It’s still required by standards. Heartland is doing end-to-end encryption. Ironically, it can take away the ability to do network protection by disabling the ability to inspect traffic. So when you implement security, you need to think about what threat you are worrying about.”

Pironti said that compliance standards are threat-based, not risk-based, and can be an obstacle to changing the IT mindset. “My biggest fear is security by compliance. It’s spending all your time thinking about an audit and none thinking about what’s important to you. The PCI conversation is outdated in my mind. PCI is a baseline and I think we need to move beyond it.”

He added that the FTC’s Red Flags Rule was manipulated by lobbyists so that the banks could meet the standard immediately. Even Heartland, which suffered a real breach, should think about costs as it implements stronger security. “Heartland was off the PCI lists for two months. It was fined $7 million to $12 million. Senior business leaders know that they can mitigate that risk with insurance. Why buy $14 million of controls when instead you can buy less and also buy insurance?”

Bottom line: Use Risk Management to Make Security Proactive

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