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Security Pros Fail In Business Lingo

Survey shows communication breakdown between IT security staffers and business execs
Non-executive-level security professionals just aren't communicating well or coherently with senior executives, a new survey shows.

That's in contrast to their superiors on the executive side of the security house, who appear to have somewhat hacked the proper business language and perspective: While about 38 percent of non-exec security pros say they use business-oriented language when they communicate with corporate execs, nearly half of exec-level security pros say they do.

The survey, conducted by Hanover Research and commissioned by Tripwire, polled more than 130 security pros in the U.S. between January and March to gauge how they interface with the business side of the house.

Close to half of the non-exec security pros say it's somewhat or very difficult to talk about security with senior managers, while about 35 percent of exec security pros feel that way.

While high-profile breaches and SEC rules are forcing corporate executives to pay closer attention to information security and risk, most IT security pros don't have the business acumen to communicate with the business side, according to Dwayne Melancon, chief technology officer for Tripwire.

"The bad news is most IT security professionals haven’t developed the necessary skills to communicate effectively with non-technical executives," he said.

Interestingly, more non-exec security pros (43 percent) than exec security pros (29 percent) say they use risk-oriented language when they talk to the business side. The main topic they need to communicate to execs, they say, is risk management (78 percent of exec security pros, and 85 percent of non-exec security pros).

"IT security professionals tend to focus on granular, technical information, but senior leadership wants to focus on how security can protect business goals like revenue growth, profit, competitive agility and customer satisfaction," Tripwire's Melancon said. "This ability to communicate the value of information security in terms easily understood by the rest of the business is a critical skill for career success in IT security. Connecting security to the business is destined to become the new normal."

The full survey and charts is available for download here.

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