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Why Corporate Security Requires Constant Vigilance

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Gone are the days when you could just set up a firewall, forget about it, and rest easy that your network is secure. Today, network security requires constant work to maintain a secure network.
This chapter is from the book
  • Ten years ago, the biggest threat to your company's information came from your own employees.

  • Not anymore.

  • Ten years ago, an external hacker actually had to sneak onto your property to steal something valuable.

  • Not anymore.

  • Ten years ago companies bought firewalls and felt safe from hackers.

  • Not anymore.

  • Ten years ago, to prosecute a perpetrator you had to nab him or her on misuse of a telephone or some tangential law.

  • Not anymore.

  • Ten years ago most of your data was in one place.

  • Not anymore.

  • Ten years ago your corporate officers were willing to accept technology risk because it wasn't "their job."

  • Not anymore.

  • Ten years ago, I had just finished bringing out the top-selling PC security device—Centel's Net/Assure—and was moving to help launch secure eCommerce on the newly public Information Superhighway. I too thought that security products were the answer.

  • Not anymore.

Ten years ago, the most important commercial asset on the Internet was reputation. Early Web sites were just electronic copies of annual reports or product spec sheets. The biggest damage came from someone hacking in and defacing one of two pictures on a home page. (Sometimes companies did this to themselves. When IBM launched its first Web page, they put up a "large" picture of then-CEO Lou Gerstner. However, the image was so large that most people couldn't even load the page, and if they did, their browsers could only display a feature or two—an ear or a nose or a chin.)

Constant-Vigilance Key Questions: CEO Focus

  1. How has your infrastructure matched the changes in your business these past 10 years?

  2. Who (besides you) is responsible for managing your corporate risk?

  3. What changes do you track proactively that could be affecting your business?

  4. What security-related changes are you tracking, and what do you do with the results?

  5. Who on your board understands and cares about your risk governance?

Even though this may seem like a pointless exercise in nostalgia, I do have a method to my madness: We are not through the cycle of change brought about 10 years ago. Rather, we are right in the middle of it. Without maintaining constant vigilance, no security is safe. And now that operations, threats, and countermeasures quite often cross borders, you suddenly need to be vigilant on a lot more information in a lot more places. To do that, you need a system.

Not Anymore, Continued

Constant change is relentless in global corporate security; overtime regulations, threats, countermeasures, and the technology facilitating all of it morph to higher levels of magnitude and complexity. This inexorable progression needs to be figured into your company's global corporate security strategy. Five years ago you might have been more willing to take risks. Why? Risks were less significant than today. In 1988, there were roughly 100 reported security incidents via the Internet, and by 1996 there were nearly 350 in just the third quarter. Today incidents per year are in the millions, and these intrusions do not even begin to touch the issue of piracy. Nearly 40 percent of all the world's software is pirated, and in countries such as Pakistan and China those rates eclipse the 80 and 90 percent marks, respectively.

A typical organization with 100 servers and 3,000 PCs behind a firewall will generate 10 million security events a month. Of these, 500 to 600 require human intervention, only 50 will involve some malicious intent, and just 2 will have caused a problem.

—John Schwarz, President, Symantec, San Jose

Every element of charting a course—regulations, personal liability, corporate governance, greater awareness of the damage caused by threats, and greater reliance on computer networks to function as a business—have significantly evolved. In the past year, you might have asked your CFO about a potential violation of Zimbabwe's data privacy act, and he or she said not to sweat hiring a lawyer to descend upon Harare, but check this year and see what she says. Regulations are in constant flux.

To outpace change and to realize ultimate ROSI from your global corporate security strategy, remaining constantly vigilant on the following four fronts is critical:

  • Threats

  • Countermeasures

  • Regulations and legal frameworks

  • Technology

Threats are evolving fast, but by the time you read about them in your morning paper or news brief, you are already behind the curve. You need to have some insight into what is around the next corner (and the one after that). And given the very nature of the threats, it is mandatory to call your security package complete.

Luckily for you, countermeasures are quickly evolving. Not only do the biggest names in security products and services develop new tools, but there are also numerous smaller companies scattered around your world that will save you time, money, and significant headaches (or worse). Regulations and their various legal frameworks are written in sand at best right now. Not only are the "regs" different in every country you do business in, they also differ in the same countries, from day to day. Compound that with the evolving legal frameworks that you are relying on to protect you, which change from court case to court case, and from political leader to political leader. I know of one company that relied on one-year-old business intelligence for some operations in Bolivia, only to arrive to a changed government and legal system that disallowed everything they had planned to do there. The biggest mistake is assuming that your laws will work where your data goes—an assumption that could cost you significantly.

Finally, your COO will say that the only thing remaining constant from your technology providers over the years is the brand. Software is rewritten, acquisitions and mergers are common, and suddenly you are running a completely new information system after an upgrade. This can and does offer real challenges to your organization, and the best way to turn these changes into positives is to gear up with advance warning, advance copies, and advance planning. Do not be fooled by the sticker on the box or the logo on the startup screen; your technology is changing as you read this.

Constant Vigilantes: Where to Find Them

  • Technology—Your tech group

  • Threats—A trusted third party

  • Countermeasures—Your security group

  • Regulations—Your legal group

Even as you consider the people you will need, it is also critical to remember that the four fronts of constant vigilance, which are changing today, tomorrow, and forever, are out of your sphere of effective control, but they are within your sphere of adaptive control. However, you must know what is happening in each of these areas, and ROSI within constant vigilance is gauged by how cost efficiently you acquire this knowledge.

Deputize to Realize ROSI

You should be aware that in many cultures it is not appropriate to question authority. Doing what you are told and following orders is still the preferred management style in some countries in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Central and South America, and the Asia Pacific areas. People are more used to questioning orders from a security perspective in places such as the United States and Canada. This questioning of the status quo is critical after your corporation and your global security strategy are distributed throughout the world. There are too many nuances at work for you to maintain a handle on them all, and you need people who will come to you and say, "This won't work because of this." You need to go the extra mile when training and managing and find ways to specifically solicit the input you are going to need based on this cultural difference.

Ideally, these sectors are delegated, with specific reporting reaching up through the CSO. I have enjoyed success delegating each of the four to different members of my staff. For instance, in nearly any company, there are staffers who scour the chat rooms, list serves, and Web sites of technology companies. I would just create a process whereby I alerted them of information I wanted or needed and information that could be discarded. Although it takes some back-and-forth dialogue at first, soon you will have initiated a reliable, free-flowing channel of information.

Identify someone in your technology group, deputize that person as your information asset, train him or her as you want, and then let that person do what he or she loves to do. Each month, hold a pizza party in the evening to debrief and share information. It is fun, everybody learns something, and those you have deputized have a vested interest and role in helping the company adapt.

Tracking threats necessitates a more exhaustive route, and this cost is best shared with others—lots of others. Imagine trying to staff a team tasked with watching the development and deployment of every threat around the world. The bill for pizza and Coke would raise the eyebrows of your CFO. Luckily, there are a precious few companies that do this on behalf of hundreds and thousands of clients around the world, and this allows them to employ a large enough staff, vast enough technology, and deep enough experience to provide the right information at the right time and in the right manner. After you have deputized your information asset infrastructure, these considerations must be correlated with your business requirements. It demands a routine loop back to department heads and business owners to let them know what has changed. In turn, they should report on what has altered for them and, in light of the latest global security intelligence, what level of risk they are now willing to live with. Ultimately, they are the ones who stand to gain or lose from the process. This virtuous circle, comprised of trend spotting, reporting, adapting, and correlating is what I call constant vigilance.

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