Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Risk

1/11/2010
04:35 PM
George V. Hulme
George V. Hulme
Commentary
50%
50%

Attaining Security In The Name Of Compliance?

Security managers have to fight for - and justify - every nickel in their budget coffers. Unfortunately, many security managers have a tough time winning the funds they feel are necessary to reduce business risk. And many end up relying on instilling the fear of bad regulatory audit findings and fines to win funds. While often a successful tactic, does wielding the compliance hammer-of-fear pose risks of its own to an IT security program?

Security managers have to fight for - and justify - every nickel in their budget coffers. Unfortunately, many security managers have a tough time winning the funds they feel are necessary to reduce business risk. And many end up relying on instilling the fear of bad regulatory audit findings and fines to win funds. While often a successful tactic, does wielding the compliance hammer-of-fear pose risks of its own to an IT security program?This post stems from a conversation I had in December with a security manager I've know for years. He was lamenting that the only way he can get the budget he needs is through placing regulatory fear in the hearts and minds of his business managers. Relying too heavily on this tactic isn't an ideal situation: business leaders need to understand that compliance is an outcome of good security practices, not vice versa. I've heard it so many times - that leveraging compliance mandates for budgets is a necessity - that I wonder if part of the responsibility falls on the security managers themselves for not properly teaching business managers about the need and the challenges associated with obtaining a fairly secure infrastructure. Now, certainly, some business managers just won't get security and they won't care -- no matter how persuasive the argument. But surely many security managers can do a better job explaining themselves.

As regulatory compliance demands have risen from HIPAA, Sarbanes-Oxley, PCI DSS, and various state data breach disclosure laws - and more compliance mandates expected to rise - I've often wondered if there's any long term damage to the IT security program by using regulatory compliance mantra as a crux for winning budget. And does doing so move the organizational goal from obtaining a secure IT infrastructure to merely being compliant?

I posed this question in an e-mail to the analysts at IT security research firm, Securosis, including its president Mike Rothman, CTO, Adrian Lane, and firm founder Rich Mogull.

Rich Mogull generally agreed with the premise of the question, and sees the risk of using compliance as budget justifier as a risk for setting compliance as the organization's top goal, not security itself:

I think this one is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Security managers that have to use compliance as the primary justification are either bad at their job (the skill of communicating with the rest of the organization), or work someplace where using the compliance hammer is their only option. In both cases, the odds become high that the result is compliance as the security ceiling.

Security managers don't need to use the compliance hammer as often if they communicate well and have a receptive audience. With most of the IT managers I've talked with, they over-use compliance and create that ceiling out of necessity- the ceiling was underground to start with.

Mike Rothman, makes the argument that security professionals need to speak well with all of the constituencies in their organization, and learn how to align their interests with the interests of other managers in the business, And, perhaps, relying too heavily on compliance to snag budget may mean communication skills need to be shined a bit:

Security professionals need to be able to tell multiple stories to multiple constituencies within their own organization. So for their technical peers, they have to appeal to saving money on operations costs or the downside risk of cleaning up a security mess. For senior management, it's all about how to make more money or spend less money. Or to comply with some regulation that has the bigwigs worried. The most important thing for security folks is to get the resources they need, if that means they need to leverage compliance. It's all good.

Adrian Lane added that it's good to use compliance as a tool for budgetary wins, but make it clear while doing so, that compliance isn't the end game, rather an outcome of a good security program:

Security people know it is better to ask for forgiveness than permission when it comes to budget. The important thing for security folks is to get the resources they need, and if that means getting security capabilities through compliance, it's all good! The investment in a security product that solves compliance requirements can also clean up a security mess with a single investment. The problem you describe is really more an issue of managing expectations: it's critical to position compliance as a benefit of doing security correctly.

That being said, it's critical to position compliance as a benefit of doing security correctly. It's really more about managing expectations, in that there is no 100% security and being compliant does not mean an organization is secure. Not by a long shot.

If welding the regulatory compliance fear-stick is the only way to obtain budget, than use the only tool you have and know. But in the meantime, try to do a better job aligning your interests in securing the business with the interests of management. And make it clear, along the way, that compliance is a product of good security - not the path to security itself.

 

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
Dark Reading Staff 7/2/2020
Ripple20 Threatens Increasingly Connected Medical Devices
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  6/30/2020
DDoS Attacks Jump 542% from Q4 2019 to Q1 2020
Dark Reading Staff 6/30/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
How Cybersecurity Incident Response Programs Work (and Why Some Don't)
This Tech Digest takes a look at the vital role cybersecurity incident response (IR) plays in managing cyber-risk within organizations. Download the Tech Digest today to find out how well-planned IR programs can detect intrusions, contain breaches, and help an organization restore normal operations.
Flash Poll
The Threat from the Internetand What Your Organization Can Do About It
The Threat from the Internetand What Your Organization Can Do About It
This report describes some of the latest attacks and threats emanating from the Internet, as well as advice and tips on how your organization can mitigate those threats before they affect your business. Download it today!
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-9498
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-02
Apache Guacamole 1.1.0 and older may mishandle pointers involved inprocessing data received via RDP static virtual channels. If a userconnects to a malicious or compromised RDP server, a series ofspecially-crafted PDUs could result in memory corruption, possiblyallowing arbitrary code to be executed...
CVE-2020-3282
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-02
A vulnerability in the web-based management interface of Cisco Unified Communications Manager, Cisco Unified Communications Manager Session Management Edition, Cisco Unified Communications Manager IM & Presence Service, and Cisco Unity Connection could allow an unauthenticated, remote attack...
CVE-2020-5909
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-02
In versions 3.0.0-3.5.0, 2.0.0-2.9.0, and 1.0.1, when users run the command displayed in NGINX Controller user interface (UI) to fetch the agent installer, the server TLS certificate is not verified.
CVE-2020-5910
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-02
In versions 3.0.0-3.5.0, 2.0.0-2.9.0, and 1.0.1, the Neural Autonomic Transport System (NATS) messaging services in use by the NGINX Controller do not require any form of authentication, so any successful connection would be authorized.
CVE-2020-5911
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-02
In versions 3.0.0-3.5.0, 2.0.0-2.9.0, and 1.0.1, the NGINX Controller installer starts the download of Kubernetes packages from an HTTP URL On Debian/Ubuntu system.