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Operations

Fixing Fragmentation Can Yield Tangible Benefits

Consolidating technology and breaking down functional silos can bring solid financial results, a new study finds.

The cyber security industry is well known for studies and reports that would, in the words of a line from the musical "1776," "…depress a hyena." That's why the good news contained in a recent survey of more than 3,200 CISOs is newsworthy.

In a blog post announcing the results of the 2019 Cisco CISO Benchmark Study, Steve Martino, senior vice president and chief information security officer at Cisco, wrote, "There was a strong correlation between those who were extremely collaborative and the total cost of their most impactful breach, which was below $100,000―the lowest category of a breach cost."

According to John Maynard, Cisco's global security sales chief, that data agrees with conversations he's had throughout the industry. Fragmentation, both of technology and responsibility, is harmful to security because it makes it more difficult to get a full picture of the threat landscape and, Maynard says, "you can't see, and you can't remediate what you can't get your arms around."

In some cases, Maynard says, companies are still struggling to bring order to a constellation of security point solutions. "We see customers with 60 to 80 vendors in security, and it's impossible to consolidate all the alerts coming in from those points," he says. On the other hand, the number of companies that are consolidating and reducing the size of their security product fleet is growing. "In 2017, we had 54% who cited 10 or fewer vendors, and that's up to 63% in this survey," Maynard explains.

The other area where consolidation and cooperation are critical is in work between traditional operational silos. "Collaboration between the networking teams, net ops teams, and security teams is important and companies that were able to do that saw a marked drop in the costs of their response," Maynard says, and drives the point home, explaining, "the companies that cited the closest collaboration between networking and security saw the lower remediation costs."

In his blog post, Martino wrote that this suggests a very easy way for companies to reap tangible benefits: create a culture and set of processes where teams align on a single set of outcomes to break down silos between groups. And the metric for determining the success of those benefits is also straightforward, Martino wrote. "Measuring outcomes against investments is the best data-driven approach to budgeting."

The study is not one of unending sunshine and congratulations: There are areas for improvement, including increasing the extent to which outcomes are used as a metric, improving alert management, and building a culture in which employees are a dramatically smaller piece of the threat landscape. 

In the conclusion and recommendations sections of the report, Maynard says that there are two points that tie directly back to these metrics. "Security budgeting should be linked to defined outcomes, and cyber insurance should be linked to funding," he says.

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Curtis Franklin Jr. is Senior Editor at Dark Reading. In this role he focuses on product and technology coverage for the publication. In addition he works on audio and video programming for Dark Reading and contributes to activities at Interop ITX, Black Hat, INsecurity, and ... View Full Bio

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