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2010 Could Be The Year For Security Outsourcing, Forrester Says

'Co-sourcing' concept could help mend the rift between security departments and service providers, research firm says

The new year could bring new relationships between the enterprise security department and the security outsourcing firms that want to serve it, according to a new industry report.

According to "Twelve Recommendations For Your 2010 Information Security Strategy," a report published yesterday by Forrester Research, enterprises may rethink the "outsourcing" concept, making it more of a "co-sourcing" approach.

"Some companies employ outsourcing vendors because they want to wipe their hands clean of regulatory compliance or hand over a messy environment in the hopes that the outsourcer will be able to fix it," the report observes. "Those are obviously the wrong reasons to outsource.

"First, even if you outsource security, you're still accountable for the protection of that data," Forrester says. "Second, if you have a messy environment, the outsourcer does not have any incentive to fix it -- and the nightmare of managing that environment will be worse if a third party gets involved."

Enterprises should be careful to perform due diligence on security outsourcing providers, and define ways to hold the outsourcer accountable, the report advises.

"This is probably the most overlooked aspect of the outsourcing relationship," Forrester observes. "On paper, you can terminate the relationship with the outsourcer as soon as the contract ends, but in reality, you invest a lot of time, effort, and resources in a relationship -- and it becomes very hard to change outsourcers quickly." Enterprises should look for outsourcers that are willing to accept some of the responsibility if a breach occurs, the report suggests.

Companies should also rethink their notion of the security "perimeter," Forrester says. "With the shrinking perimeter and companies increasingly opting to have others control their data (outsourcers, business partners, etc.), security professionals have to get back to the drawing board and build their security architectures, taking into account these new realities," the report states.

"The new security architecture needs to be built assuming environments will operate more like islands in a huge sea rather than a strong moat."

Security departments should reconsider the notion of "business partner risk," Forrester says. "Many companies still feel that it's too risky for them to outsource security, yet they have hundreds of contractors working for them, resulting in very similar risks. It is hard to discern an 'insider' from an 'outsider' today."

Forrester believes that data shared with third parties and business partners will be "the most significant area of risk that the companies will take on in 2010," the report says.

To be successful in co-sourcing, security managers must change their existing belief system, Forrester says. "For years, information security professionals have built security controls based on the assumption that there will be a strong perimeter and that you will have control over the infrastructure and data flow. The past few years have demonstrated that this is no longer the case.

"Many security organizations have found that outsourcing can not only be cost-effective, but can also provide better quality of security controls," Forrester states. "Likewise, if you accept the ownership change and you don't have any preconceived notions, you can also make business decisions on what parts of the security function can be outsourced -- and how to get more value for the money you're spending on security."

Part of the new security thinking will mean taking a new approach to data ownership, Forrester says. "Many companies today are struggling to make decisions around whether to allow social media within their environments," the report says. "The biggest fear that many security professionals have is that this will lead to less control over corporate data, and hence could be detrimental to the company.

"If you understand the ownership challenge and accept that you can't rely merely on the technology to protect your intellectual property, you will be better able to address the technology change," Forrester says.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message. Tim Wilson is Editor in Chief and co-founder of Dark Reading.com, UBM Tech's online community for information security professionals. He is responsible for managing the site, assigning and editing content, and writing breaking news stories. Wilson has been recognized as one ... View Full Bio

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