How To Create A Risk 'Pain Chart'

Consultant John Pironti outlines how to execute a risk-based approach to defending corporate assets.



If security and business operation requirements seem somewhat out of synch sometimes, it is because in many enterprises, they are. Yet aligning those two mandates can be critical for effectively protecting enterprises.

Next month at the Interop conference in New York, John Pironti, president of consulting company IP Architects, will be leading a workshop on aligning a risk-based approach to security to business needs and use it to better defend the organization and minimize risk. This process requires the creation of information risk profiles, threat and vulnerability analysis, vulnerability management, and business resiliency capabilities such as incident response. But many organizations are still falling short of this nirvana state of security, he says.

"I think that I would say that we have all the best intentions, but we're still following the shiny object in execution," he says.

While security professionals acknowledge the idea that they should be more business-aligned and better at applying an understanding of risk to their security strategy, the focus remains on trying to buy new technologies to solve all of an enterprise's problems, explains Pironti.

The key, he says, is to create a risk profile -- a pain chart for security that chronicles when an incident starts to hurt.

"First I figure out what my appetite is [for risk]," he says. "When does something become material to the organization? When does it come to the point where the organization says, 'enough is enough, we can't have this.' Then I build security frameworks, control models to reach to that level."

"That's how I turn the corner with the business, because now I'm not in contention with the business," he adds. "Now I can go back to the business and say, this is what you said…I built this to that level of capability. If that seems…too expensive to you or too much of an investment, then we need to recalibrate our expectations on what our risk appetite is."

The risk profile Pironti pitches includes the types and priority of information risks an organization finds acceptable and unacceptable. Organizations also need to take into account the legal standard of due care for the organization: the accepted minimum the organization would need to prove it was not reckless and did what a similar organization would do to secure its assets.

Every industry has a different tolerance for risk, Pironti says. For example, after TJX was breached several years ago, the company announced it had recorded strong sales even as it publicly acknowledged a significant jump in the costs associated with the incident. People tend to be harder on healthcare organizations however because healthcare records are viewed as more personal than credit cards, he argues.

"I can change credit cards; I can't change health records," Pironti says."So the impact is different."

The goal of the talk is to minimize the impact of an attack, he says.

"Let's understand that the inevitability is that something probably is going to happen within the operating career of an organization… Everything we're going to try and do is to shrink the problem. We are going to minimize impact, and our goal is to turn incidents into operational anomalies," he says.

Interop will run from September 29 to October 3 in New York.

Brian Prince is a freelance writer for a number of IT security-focused publications. Prior to becoming a freelance reporter, he worked at eWEEK for five years covering not only security, but also a variety of other subjects in the tech industry. Before that, he worked as a ... View Full Bio

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