Enterprise Resilience: It's the Ecosystem, Stupid

Organizations must rethink their approach to security in a way that defends not just themselves, but the entire ecosystem they inhabit, says Accenture report.

Accenture realizes that all enterprises are interconnected. It's not all that sure that you realize it, however. On page 68 of its Technology Vision 2019report, it has a pull quote designed to attract a reader's attention. The top of that page says, “87% of business and IT executives believe that to be truly resilient, organizations must rethink their approach to security in a way that defends not just themselves, but their ecosystems.”

There is more than just nuance in that statement, there is an entire security path.

It's the ecosystem, stupid.

Accenture says that across industries, just 39% of respondents believe that the data exchanged with strategic partners or third parties are protected adequately by their cybersecurity strategy. Not a great result, there. People have come to see that all their partners can both create or take away business based on that business's individual policies.

The security landscape is evolving to the point that companies will be forced to assess third parties not just on the merits of their business contributions, but also on their compliance with security policies and laws in an increasingly complex regulatory environment. The third party has to be evaluated for their ability to create a liability in a transaction.

An attacker can establish stepping stones at third parties that have weak security, or those that don't realize that they are vulnerable. They can be the path someone else rides in on.

Accenture advises to, “Look beyond your company's own infrastructure to identify areas where ecosystem connections could expose you to new vulnerabilities. Conversely, consider areas where your connections to other companies have changed those companies' exposure to risk.” Also, “Develop a security strategy to continuously assess and address these vulnerabilities while ensuring the appropriate groups inside your organization are aware of these threats."

It really does work both ways here. By considering what risk your company presents to another party, you are able to control those risks rather than be surprised by their existence.

As new business relationships develop, security concerns have to become involved at the onset. It's a cardinal component of those relationships. Take steps to ensure that ecosystem partners can meet your company's standards around security and are actively auditing their own practices.

Establishing milestones with your partners-to-be about security may also clear up where the responsibilities lie with regard to performing any necessary work.

Another major recommendation from Accenture is to become a Responsible Community Member. As Accenture puts it, “Seek out industry partners as well as competitors to find common goals for addressing security challenges. Perform a security audit of your vendors and provide relevant findings to ecosystem or industry partners who are also using those vendors' services. If applicable, open source the security tools your business has developed to get input from a larger community and make these protections more broadly available to others.”

I think the altruism index just went off the chart, but there are some decent concepts in there. Talking to peers may offer a broader viewpoint, and make it possible to communicate yours.

— Larry Loeb has written for many of the last century's major "dead tree" computer magazines, having been, among other things, a consulting editor for BYTE magazine and senior editor for the launch of WebWeek.