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Operational Security

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Gartner Says Real Security Starts With a Mission

Security for the digital organization starts with a mission that has executive support; the process from mission to execution is step-by-step.

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Gartner Symposium/ITXpo -- Security is a practical discipline. Sure, we can talk big ideas and lofty goals, but if the practice that calls itself "security" doesn't keep an organization's assets safe, then it's failing at its job.

Perhaps that's the reason that the session on developing a pragmatic security vision and strategy was standing-room only.

Gartner Fellow and VP Tom Scholtz started by looking at the expansion of security responsibility that comes with a transformation to a digital business. Where traditional security is concerned with "CIA," that is;

  • Confidentiality
  • Integrity
  • Availability

digital business adds "PSR," or;

  • Privacy
  • Safety
  • Reiability

Those three little words change the brief for security and its practitioners in significant ways -- ways that require a plan if there's a hope of success.

What kind of plan do you and your organization need to have? Scholtz didn't go into details on the tactics you should incorporate into your plan -- those will be far too unique for every organization. He did, however, talk about the structure that the plan should be built upon. It's a structure that incorporates a framework that any organization might find useful.

Security charter
What's the point of security? It seems like an obvious question, but the security group needs a mission, or charter, setting out in plain language what security will do for the organization and how it will be accomplished. Then the executive committee must sign off on the charter. With the clear statement and C-level support, the security group has a huge head start on success. Terms of reference
Communications are hard. Make things easier with a list of terms and definitions, and a reference model for the security architecture. This will make meetings more productive and provide a reference to return to when discussions go completely off the rails. Governance and accountability
Whatever it is that we want to do, someone must do it. And someone must make sure that it's done. Oh, yes, and someone must pay for it. All of that should be put down in black and white in the security plan. It's especially important to set out the responsibilities of the business units that aren't part of IT. As another speaker at Gartner Symposium said, "If the business units have no responsibility for the security of their data, then they're going to engage in reckless behavior." Roadmap
How do we get from where we are to where we must be? This is the point at which plans and schedules are set. These will be visited, reviewed and revised on a regular basis, to account for changes in business, threats and technology. Every revision becomes part of the roadmap and the revision history of the plan. Execution
The best plan and roadmap in the world is of little use if it's not put into practice. Deployment, management and operation are where the governance and accountability pieces become real in accordance with the security charter. One of the pieces that Scholtz mentioned -- and that was talked about in other presentations during the week -- is establishing KPIs (key performance indicators) for security. These will provide the basis for metrics against which security's operations can be measured, modified and improved.


Want to learn more about the technology and business opportunities and challenges for the cable industry in the commercial services market? Join Light Reading in New York on November 30 for the 11th annual Future of Cable Business Services event. All cable operators and other service providers get in free.

Business evolution means that security must evolve, as well. Evolution can be complex and even painful, but failing to evolve means that security will become less and less effective, dramatically raising the chances of failure, breach and ultimately, data loss.

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— Curtis Franklin is the editor of SecurityNow.com. Follow him on Twitter @kg4gwa.

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