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6 Tips For Doing More Security With Less

Security ranks as a top priority in many IT budgets, but this year the money may not be there for many organizations -- here's how to get creative

Cybercrime is on the rise as organizations face the tough realities of a poor economy putting the squeeze on their security spending. But don't panic -- some creative ways to defend your data on a tight budget do exist.

The discrepancy between security priorities and the money to fund them is becoming painfully obvious. According to a recent survey of Forrester Research enterprise clients, 68 percent of IT security decision-makers consider the security of their data to be the most important issue, ahead of compliance and mobile security. The catch: Their security budgets are basically flat for this year (12.6 percent of their overall IT budgets) over last year (11.7 percent), according to Forrester.

"Can they afford to fund all the security they want? The answer is, 'no,'" says Andrew Jaquith, senior analyst with Forrester. Those days of having the money to throw at the newest threat are long gone. "Now that times are not so good, they still have to face expanding threats, but their budgets must stay flat and, in some cases, decline," he adds.

Mike Rothman, senior vice president of strategy at eIQnetworks, says the gloomy economic crisis doesn't mean spending on security will be suspended altogether -- just that budgets won't be increased. "It's about how to make the best use of funding that's already there, with the tools, people, and processes that are in place," Rothman says.

So how can IT security survive these tough times? Security experts point to several ways to make do with less, everything from a little budget-shuffling with other business groups to outsourcing IT security functions to internal groups or the outside. And the well-kept secret is that this is a buyer's market in which some security vendors are willing to negotiate better deals -- all you have to do is ask for discounts. Really.

Here are six ways to do security with less:

1. Get out of the deployment business.

IT security should definitely be involved in selecting data protection tools, but shouldn't be dealing with provisioning tools that require heavy customization, Forrester's Jaquith says. That can drain already-limited resources.

"We think the best approach is for IT security to primarily be involved in provisioning tools that don't require a lot of customization and involvement like full-disk encryption," he says. "Share the workload and make sure the business units are involved."

2. Spread the cost of security with other groups.

Not only should full-disk encryption (FDE) not be the security staff's rollout project, but it also doesn't have to be a security expense. FDE could be funded with your organization's laptops under the IT group, Jaquith says.

And that Web application firewall (WAF) purchase doesn't have to be funded under security, either -- it can just as easily be a network expense.

"A great many organizations are considering [WAFs], but the commercial ones can be pricey. So some of our savvy customers have found they can get them budgeted [under] IT infrastructure instead of IT security, the former being much larger," says Jeremiah Grossman, CTO of WhiteHat Security. Some are getting their WAF purchases paid by IT by bundling them as part of a larger load-balancer procurement, he says.

NEXT: Everything old is new again. Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

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