"The real goal is to help people who are in charge of privacy and data protection at their organization understand where they are relative to other companies," says Larry Ponemon, chairman of Ponemon Institute.
"We basically built the model on those four quadrants, the combination of which determines what is called a PRI coefficient or index, which ranges from 0 to 100 points," Ponemon says.
In the initial scoring of the benchmarking survey participants, the lowest observed score was in the 20s, while the highest was in the 80s. The survey itself showed that over half of respondents belive their organization does not consider privacy and protection of personal information to be a corporate priority. Just over six in ten said their companies don't enforce all levels of compliance with regulations and laws. And 62% of respondents reported their organization does not have the expertise, training or technology necessary to protect personal information.
All of these answers were taken into consideration to develop the tool's framework. Those who enter their details into the tool will be compared to these ranked and rated companies to come up with their own individual PRI.
Some security pros wonder whether such a tool may give insecure businesses a false sense of hope given the comparison-based nature of the survey and the judgment-based line of questioning that asks participants how equipped they feel their organization is at addressing certain risk factors. According to Nick Cavalancia, vice president at SpectorSoft, it is common for organizations to initially over estimate their organization's readiness to address security problems without additional help delving into security holes.
"There's this false sense of security people may already have, and they may tell you 'Yes, I think we have enough resources to protect employee and customer information,' but they may really not," he says. "If the answers are accurate, then someone can gauge their risk (using the tool). But there is the possibility they can come away thinking 'I'm doing better than the norm, therefore my business is secure.'"
Ponemon emphasizes to ensure organizations get an honest picture of their true risk index, they need to have someone with a understanding of its privacy and security practices.
"The point of reference is always important any time you do a calculator," Ponemon says. "The rater doing this should be someone in privacy or data protection--you really need to understand your organization."
He also explains that the tool is in no way meant to replace an in-depth risk assessment.
"We're not a consulting firm but we know consulting firms and they have huge projects and go to an organization and spend weeks or months trying to figure out the risk issues," he says. "That's not what we're doing, but it's a good starting point. It's like taking a thermometer reading and saying 'Gee, I've got a fever.' It doesn't mean you know what's wrong but it will let you know that you're sick."
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