Sometimes the security, IT, risk, and privacy offices just can't get along.

Sara Peters, Senior Editor

March 19, 2015

4 Min Read

Fifteen-year-old girls are the go-to experts on the phenomenon of a "frenemy" -- a person who is both your friend and your enemy. Yet, even 15-year-old girls would agree that leaders of security, privacy, risk, and IT departments know just as much about those kinds of complex, melodramatic relationships. 

Part of the problem: "There are too many chiefs, and none of them are really chiefs," says Jason Straight, senior vice president and chief privacy officer at UnitedLex. 

In very general and traditional terms, chief privacy officers come from legal backgrounds, chief risk officers mostly business/finance, and chief information officers and security officers from technology.

Some conflicts are avoidable. Others are necessary, but can be less painful if you approach them from the right mindset. And there are actually great opportunities for friendship, if you know where to look. 

Conflict and opportunity: What does 'risk' mean?

CPOs focus on data and compliance. That's pretty standard. CIOs focus on how IT can support and drive the business. Again: that's pretty clear. CROs and CISO/CSOs however, have rather confusing directives.

Unlike risk officers, security professionals are averse to risk and want more authority to make decisions instead of just give advice. Yet they've been encouraged to loosen up, stop unplugging and locking up everything, and told "why can't you be more like the CRO?" 

That can cause some friction. However, risk officers have their own troubles, and they need security experts help to solve it.

Market risk, operational risk, credit risk and enterprise risk have been in the school books for ages, but information and technology risk are new realms for risk officers. 

"Lots of risk officers are saying 'I don't feel comfortable with the information side, but I've gotta be that guy now, too,'" says John Pironti, president of IP Architects. Big data collection, he says, is just too fundamental a part of any business to ignore. This is a place where security officers and risk officers can begin to understand each other.

Conflict: The CISO reports to the CIO

"The biggest place I see conflict is when the CSO reports to the CIO," says Pironti. "It's a problem of what merits they're judged by. Security guys are not going to tell you to do things in the most efficient way. That's not a criticism. It's just not their job."

The trouble of course, is that when a major security incident happens and someone's looking for a scapegoat, the CISO may be penalized for failures that only happened because the CISO's decisions were overruled by the CIO.

The only solution here, is to move the CISO elsewhere: under the CEO, the CFO, or the CRO, but definitely not the CIO.

Conflict: "Where's the data?"

It's often the CPO who comes with the question. Personally identifiable information is collected from hither and thither. A job application here, a web form there. 

"You get this tension," says Straight. "Nobody really knows where this stuff is." And if the CPO, for example, says that a privacy law will grant them Safe Harbor if they can encrypt that data, everyone' may be, Straight says, "'Well good for you, but I don't have the budget to go find it.'"

The CSO, CRO and CPO may all agree that it's in the best interest of the company, its security and its compliance to discover and lock down that data, but it's rare that anyone really has clear ownership of it.  

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Conflict: CPO and the CSO have an unequal relationship

"You can't have privacy without security," says Straight, "but you can have a perfect security program without privacy. And both [the CPO and CSO] know that."

Sure, the security department is going to plan on nailing on databases, but there could be those occasions that they meet a CPO with a roll of the eyes and a dismissive wave of the hand. 

On the other hand, the two could bond over the fact that they are both unappreciated by the CIO and application developers. 

"Security is usually an afterthought," says Straight, "and privacy is usually not a thought at all."

Friendship opportunity: Cyberinsurance

When there's a data breach -- and don't worry, there will be -- someone has got to pay. The field of cyber liability insurance is so new and so confusing that everyone is looking to each other for answers.

"The CPO, CRO and CSO all have interst in cyberinsurance and privacy liability," says Straight, "and it's had a positive effect" on those relationships.

If all else fails, you can always bond over shared disdain for the chief marketing officer.

Check out John Pironti's and Jason Straight's sessions at Interop Las Vegas, April 27 to May 1.  

About the Author(s)

Sara Peters

Senior Editor

Sara Peters is Senior Editor at Dark Reading and formerly the editor-in-chief of Enterprise Efficiency. Prior that she was senior editor for the Computer Security Institute, writing and speaking about virtualization, identity management, cybersecurity law, and a myriad of other topics. She authored the 2009 CSI Computer Crime and Security Survey and founded the CSI Working Group on Web Security Research Law -- a collaborative project that investigated the dichotomy between laws regulating software vulnerability disclosure and those regulating Web vulnerability disclosure.

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