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8/2/2021
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New Normal Demands New Security Leadership Structure

At the inaugural Omdia Analyst Summit, experts discuss where the past year has created gaps in traditional security strategy and how organizations can fill them.

BLACK HAT USA 2021 – Many organizations have undergone sweeping technological and operational changes in the past 18 months, creating new conversations around how these new technologies and processes should be secured and who is tasked with protecting them.

This was the core of a keynote delivered by Maxine Holt, senior director of cybersecurity at Omdia, during the inaugural Omdia Analyst Summit at this year's Black Hat USA. Holt pointed to data from Omdia's latest ICT Enterprise Insights survey, which found 31.7% of organizations said cloud services adoption is "significantly more important" than it was before the pandemic.

"Whatever had to be done had to be done quickly," Holt said. Every company has had to evaluate data and business requirements as employees move off-premises into home offices. As they do, "what we're finding now is the Band-Aid is being pulled back," she continued. Now, security teams are dealing with a "mish-mash" of security controls initially designed for offices.

"They're not fit for purpose in this 'reset normality' world, which means organizations are effectively failing in their security responsibilities," Holt added.

Customer experience is one example: Forty-two percent of Omdia respondents said customer experience is more important now than pre-pandemic, while 34% said it's significantly more important. One-quarter of respondents said creating a digital capability is significantly more important, while 45% said it's more important. Nearly 40% said managing security, identity, and privacy is more important now, while 33% said it's significantly more important – a stat Holt found encouraging.

"We can't have transformative work going on in an organization without consideration given to security and privacy," she said. With these priorities, the security team "absolutely needs more investment" as it moves from survival mode to helping the business thrive.

As remote and hybrid work become the new normal for many organizations, there is greater pressure on security teams to refine security controls using people, processes, and technology. More than one-fifth of businesses reported their security has kept up with the pace of change in 2020, said Holt, citing Dark Reading survey data. But for many, security has fallen behind.

"The inference from that is there are more gaps in the security posture of these organizations than there were in 2019," she noted. Omdia data shows 15% of businesses have a "fully developed," proactive approach to security and digital risk, and 27% have a "well-advanced" approach. The remaining 58% have a "substantially inadequate" approach, said Holt.

Security teams struggle to keep up as they navigate the many obstacles standing in their way, Holt continued, listing the challenges of consistent vulnerability disclosure, compliance hurdles, the difficulty in hiring security practitioners, poor visibility into expanding cloud environments, a new generation of security operations center (SOC) capabilities, IT-driven attacks on critical infrastructure, and understanding and managing a broad community of users.

The complexity of cybersecurity demands a revised management structure, Holt said. She suggested assigning organizationwide responsibility for security with the role of a chief cybersecurity officer. Below this person are C-suite positions including a chief information security officer, chief information officer, chief risk officer, chief compliance officer, chief digital officer, and others. 

"All have a dotted line to the chief cybersecurity officer," she added. "Without someone to call the cybersecurity shots … it's so much more difficult to pull together all these necessary components to cybersecurity isn't haywire anymore." 

Having one person in charge can set the organization in the right direction.

Kelly Sheridan is the Staff Editor at Dark Reading, where she focuses on cybersecurity news and analysis. She is a business technology journalist who previously reported for InformationWeek, where she covered Microsoft, and Insurance & Technology, where she covered financial ... View Full Bio

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