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5/2/2014
03:05 PM

Privacy, Cybercrime Headline the Infosecurity Europe Conference

Attendees debate NSA surveillance, privacy reforms, cybercrime defenses, and sharpen their CISO skills.
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Avoid security for security's sake
Beyond big-picture privacy and surveillance questions, many conference presentations focused on professional matters such as sharpening one's CISO skills and securing your business. 
Interestingly, many information security experts at the conference -- just steps from an expo floor jammed with the latest information security products and service providers -- also emphasized that CISOs and security professionals should focus first on the goals of their business, rather than the technology they use to support those goals. 'I think security innovation is a waste of time,' said Michael Colao, head of security for the investment firm AXA UK and a participant in a 'security as enabler' panel session. 'My business thinks in money. I've done something really innovative in security that will save 20 grand a year? That's a rounding error, in my business.' 
Instead, he said, CISOs need to play to the long-term goals of the business. 'The important thing to do is to pair, to some degree, with the strategy in your firm, which is often hard, because they're hidden, and they don't show up very often.' But such strategies 'often have the CEO's ear,' and tying security decisions into the CEO's vision for the business in 2020 or 2030 -- industries the business plans to move into, parts of the business that executives plan to sell off -- is the mark of a well-run security program.
(Source: Infosecurity Europe 2014)

Beyond big-picture privacy and surveillance questions, many conference presentations focused on professional matters such as sharpening one's CISO skills and securing your business.

Interestingly, many information security experts at the conference -- just steps from an expo floor jammed with the latest information security products and service providers -- also emphasized that CISOs and security professionals should focus first on the goals of their business, rather than the technology they use to support those goals. "I think security innovation is a waste of time," said Michael Colao, head of security for the investment firm AXA UK and a participant in a "security as enabler" panel session. "My business thinks in money. I've done something really innovative in security that will save 20 grand a year? That's a rounding error, in my business."

Instead, he said, CISOs need to play to the long-term goals of the business. "The important thing to do is to pair, to some degree, with the strategy in your firm, which is often hard, because they're hidden, and they don't show up very often." But such strategies "often have the CEO's ear," and tying security decisions into the CEO's vision for the business in 2020 or 2030 -- industries the business plans to move into, parts of the business that executives plan to sell off -- is the mark of a well-run security program.

(Source: Infosecurity Europe 2014)

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Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Ninja
5/5/2014 | 4:57:23 PM
Re: InfoSec ROI, a "rounding error" -- Yikes
How much is it worth to this fellow to keep business plans away from a competitor or to keep his company's bank accounts from being drained?
Marilyn Cohodas
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50%
Marilyn Cohodas,
User Rank: Strategist
5/5/2014 | 2:03:13 PM
Re: InfoSec ROI, a "rounding error" -- Yikes
"Saying" is one thing. "Doing" is a different matter entirely. And if it was easy to measure the cost of the breach that didn't happen because of good security practices, then I suspect security budgets would be very ample!
Ed Moyle
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Ed Moyle,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/5/2014 | 1:26:49 PM
Re: InfoSec ROI, a "rounding error" -- Yikes
Marilyn,

Hah! You did in 50 words what it took me three paragraphs.  :-)  So yeah, you're right on the money.  
Marilyn Cohodas
50%
50%
Marilyn Cohodas,
User Rank: Strategist
5/5/2014 | 12:59:26 PM
Re: InfoSec ROI, a "rounding error" -- Yikes
Ed, if I follow your logic, are you saying that it's hard to measure what you save by avoiding a breach?
Ed Moyle
50%
50%
Ed Moyle,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/5/2014 | 11:46:14 AM
Re: InfoSec ROI, a "rounding error" -- Yikes
So, taken at face value, I don't think this quote is "wrong" per se.  Meaning, assuming the premise is true, then the conclusion is a logical one.  My issue with this is that I think the premise is false.  

Specifically, there is quite a bit more possible (financial) return to an organization than just operational cost savings as a result of security innovation.  Certainly, operational savings hit the bottom line, but (as this quote highlights), the bottom line impact isn't always that significant (though that said, why not save 20k vs. wasting it).  

What is significant though - and also not represented at all in this quote - is the economic return associated with offseting risk.  Why is it not represented?  I'm speculating now, but I'm thinking because it's harder to calculate.  Essentially, it can be seen in the answer to a question like this one: "What's the bottom line impact of offsetting chance of a breach by .05%?"  If you believe the answer is "nothing" (realized numbers), you're in agreement with the person you quoted.  If you belive the answer is some number based on some function that includes cost of the impact, likelihood of the event, cost of the control, and so forth (which includes unrealized numbers) then you probably disagree with it.  I happen to fall into this latter camp.

 
Marilyn Cohodas
50%
50%
Marilyn Cohodas,
User Rank: Strategist
5/5/2014 | 9:38:04 AM
InfoSec ROI, a "rounding error" -- Yikes
This is an outrageous quote. How prevalent is this attitude?

 "I think security innovation is a waste of time," said Michael Colao, head of security for the investment firm AXA UK and a participant in a "security as enabler" panel session. "My business thinks in money. I've done something really innovative in security that will save 20 grand a year? That's a rounding error, in my business."

 

 

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