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Embrace Your Inner Risk Adviser

Bridging the gap between security and IT and the business side requires teamwork on building a risk profile

If you're a security professional who's regularly telling IT and the business side what they're doing wrong with security, then you're doing it wrong.

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That's what John Pironti, president of IP Architects LLC, told attendees at Interop New York last week. "They have no incentive to spend time with you if you [only] tell them what they are doing wrong," he said. Security pros should serve as risk advisers to the company, he said.

"As security people, we are better at talking about threats and vulnerabilities than we are about risk," Pironti said. But it's time to shift that mind-set, he said, and to embrace the security risk profile approach.

"We need to differentiate between risk and security: Risk is part of enterprise risk management, and security is the enabler," he said. That will help remove the "friction" that often comes between security and IT, he said, where the security pro is all about protection, and the IT pro is all about availability and efficiency.

First, you must discern the organization's risk "appetite," he said. Drill down on what they care most about and why. Security is the "output," risk defines where you are going, and security determines how, he said.

If you don't know what the organization's key business processes are, he said, then take a look at the business continuity disaster recovery plan.

A risk profile entails deciding and agreeing on what's acceptable risk, and classifying data (public or confidential, for example). "What's the material business impact? That's different for every organization -- some do it by revenue or reputation or regulatory," Pironti said. "When does [a security incident] become material?"

A security incident may not be "material" to a business if it only resulted in a few lost data records, for example. "The cost to protect the data should not exceed the value of the data," Pironti said.

When security helps facilitate a risk profile, it then fits with "the enterprise conversation," he said.

Ensure the business side physically signs off on the risk profile, too, Pironti said. "If you want this thing to work, leadership has to buy in ...They have to understand we are not making decisions for them any longer. We are empowering them."

"No longer are we the people they don't want to see ... now they're asking us questions," he said.

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Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

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Peter Fretty
Peter Fretty,
User Rank: Moderator
11/14/2013 | 4:04:20 PM
re: Embrace Your Inner Risk Adviser
Risk management is something that more organizations need to understand and deploy. Sophos did a great job covering this topic in its Naked Security blog as well: http://j.mp/18w6Yyo

Peter Fretty
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