5/21/2014
12:00 PM
Leo Cole
Leo Cole
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Why Security & Profitability Go Hand-In-Hand

It's never been more critical to put security on the front line to protect your company's bottom line.



The threat landscape has evolved tremendously during the past several years, yet many businesses’ priority lists have stayed the same. Business leaders in executive offices are determined to get revenue-generating projects on the market first, and then, usually a year later, they worry about security.

According to Trustwave’s recently released "2014 Security Pressures Report," 79 percent of respondents said they felt pressured in 2013 to roll out IT projects despite concerns that the projects were not security-ready. The survey, which polled more than 800 full-time global IT professionals about the information security pressures they face, revealed that, too often, security is an afterthought in the product development process -- though that’s not necessarily intentional.

According to the report, 85 percent of IT pros say a bigger IT security team would reduce pressures and bolster job effectiveness. But for many businesses, security is not a core competency, and in-house IT teams say they do not have the staffing or expertise to build and manage a security strategy that effectively covers all potential attack vectors. As a result, the internal teams feel overwhelmed and uncomfortable working on projects within their wheelhouse while also protecting company data, according to the survey.

From my personal observations working with businesses of all sizes, the problem stems in part from the basic architecture of the enterprise IT team, which is typically segmented into groups (application, server, infrastructure, desktop)  -- none of which is directly responsible for security. If there is a security group, it is usually off to the side and relegated to a secondary role dealing with issues after-the-fact, when other groups have already rolled out their projects.

If that isn’t enough to convince you of the need for a greater investment in security, consider a recent Gartner survey of more than 2,300 CIOs reported earlier this year in The Wall Street Journal. The CIOs ranked security No. 8 on a list of strategic priorities, compared to 10 years ago, when security was the No. 1 concern. Research from Forrester, meanwhile, shows that 36 percent of breaches stem from inadvertent misuse of data by employees, a problem that can also clearly benefit from investments in user education.

Follow the money
There’s also a downside on the balance sheet of security ROI, stemming from real tangible costs that can add up quickly in the wake of a data breach. If your business handles payment card information, for example, you may need to pay a fine for non-compliance with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS), a requirement that a business must meet if it stores, processes, or transmits payment card data. Fines range from a few thousand to hundreds of thousands of dollars depending on how many payment cards were determined to be at risk of compromise. A compromised business must also pay for card replacements and fraud reimbursement, meaning if the criminals made transactions using the stolen payment cards, the onus is on the victim organization to pay back that money to the card brands. Businesses must also pay for a post-breach forensics investigation and, in many cases, legal counsel as well.

Coupled with the tangible costs, there are also intangible costs that could potentially cripple a business. Depending on the nature of the breach, you may have to temporarily halt operations to clean up the damage, which could mean more lost revenue. Some companies may need to scale back on operations, which would mean slower operations and another potential decrease in cashflow. Customers may also lose faith in the victim organization, including long-time loyal customers who have regularly pumped dollars into company coffers for years. If the business is public, a loss of market share could cause revenues to drop.

There is no silver bullet when it comes to securing valuable corporate information. But as businesses connect just about everything to the Internet, it’s never been more critical to put security on the front line to protect the bottom line -- and roll out IT projects only when they are market-ready and secure.

Leo Cole is responsible for the strategy and execution of the Trustwave's information security solutions business. He has more than 30 years of experience in technology marketing and information security, having held leadership positions at IBM, Websense, and Guidance ... View Full Bio
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