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Security's Dollar Daze

Getting resources for security means making a savvy business case

2:10 PM -- The feeding frenzy is over. Now the hard part begins.

Over the past couple of years, it's been pretty easy to get resources -- people, equipment, budget -- for IT security. If dozens of public breach disclosures didn't scare the hell out of your CXOs, then the panic to achieve regulatory compliance probably did. Fear is a great motivator.

Now, however, top managers are starting to think more skeptically. They've spent a lot of money on security, and they're not sure whether their businesses really are more secure. And, as they continually seek ways to trim the budget, they are beginning to scale back on wild security spending. (See Security's Sea Change.)

For security pros, this new skepticism means that future purchase requests will be met with more scrutiny, more arguments, and more questions. If you want approval, you'll need to make a stronger business case for the investments you make.

One way to do that is to demonstrate the vulnerabilities that your company faces, and the potential fallout if those vulnerabilities are exploited. As experts eloquently explained at the Gartner IT Security Summit earlier this week, the ability to track hackers' directions can make a big difference in the way you set your security priorities. (See Using Bugs as Leverage.)

Another way to do it is to integrate security priorities and business priorities. This strategy is excessively evident in the security information management (SIM) space, where security products are evolving to incorporate broader business priorities, such as IT governance, risk management, and compliance cost control. (See A Multitude of SIMs.)

A third way to make security's business case is to position it as a point of differentiation. A study being presented today by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University indicates that consumers are willing to pay more to buy from online vendors that do their best to protect user privacy. (See Privacy Premium Doesn't Faze Buyers.)

In the end, though, security faces the same business problem it always has: It's hard to prove a negative. How much money did your company save last month because it didn't get hacked? Would it have achieved that same result if it had spent less? Some CFOs may want to tinker with the numbers to try and find out.

There is still plenty of fear on the horizon, especially with breaches such as TJX's still making the headlines. But if industry predictions about the coming year are true, IT is going to have to fight harder for its security dollars. If you haven't put your business cap on for a while, it's time to dig it out. You're gonna need it.

— Tim Wilson, Site Editor, Dark Reading