by CIO Executive Council

IT Leaders Share Tips on Managing Security Risks

Mar 24, 20144 mins
CIOIT GovernanceIT Leadership

Too much security -- or too little -- could bankrupt a company. These IT executives offer advice on finding the right balance.

IT security is a tricky issue: Too much security — or too little — could bankrupt your company. The key is to strike the right balance. These three IT executives share their advice.

Determine Your Investment Best Bets

Martin Gomberg, global director of security, governance and business protection, A&E Networks: Security is a slide switch. Slide it all the way to the right, and nothing will get in, nothing will get out  — and nothing will get done. Slide it all the way to the left, and we will all have a party, it will be a great day — but we’ll only have one of them. My approach is to find the setting where risk is not too high, nor is risk mitigation an impediment to innovation.

In our industry, the threats are increasing and becoming more targeted, and our ability to protect ourselves is diminishing. Meanwhile, the technologies required for protection are getting more complicated and expensive, capable security staff are more difficult to find, and new laws and regulations are more likely to impose severe penalties for breaches.

Last year, I worked with IT, internal counsel, fellow security professionals and the State Department to introduce a 10-point security plan that will help us determine our best bets for effective security investments.

With limited budgets, it’s more important than ever to have some kind of security framework that covers our guiding principles, including employee education; increasing the capabilities of our response teams; leveraging our system, infrastructure and endpoint protection strategies; and understanding our inventory of data and assets.

Balance Risk With Efficiency

Dru Rai, senior vice president and CIO, Axalta Coating Systems: When DuPont sold Axalta Coating Systems to the Carlyle Group, we had the opportunity to rethink the security strategy for the company. The legacy security polices and procedures were very conservative.

We reformed the security polices and procedures to balance efficiency and risk management. What we want to do is consider not just risk, but the likelihood of risk. The probability of our primary data center being blown up is very low. By comparison, the probability of a server going down in the primary data center is much higher. As a result, we invested heavily in failover processes and a high-availability architecture in our primary data center, and we reduced the disaster recovery data center’s footprint to key applications and servers.

We know that not all applications and data are created equal. Some need to be more secure, such as formula and recipe management for our products. And others, like non-sensitive documentation management in Microsoft SharePoint, can be readily available within our network.

You can spend a lot of money, but you will never be totally secure. I think of security as another business risk to manage. We have to manage risk and invest in sound security policies, but we want to balance that with efficiency.

Keep Evolving; Risk Is a Moving Target

Eric Lindgren, vice president and CIO, PerkinElmer: As a life sciences company, the foundation of everything we do from a security standpoint is ensuring that we meet federal, state and industry regulations and standards. We build from there until we reach a comfortable level that’s in line with best practices and the latest standards but that doesn’t hurt productivity.

Because the threats we face are continually evolving, our investments have to evolve with them. Five years ago, I created a separate security and compliance group. When someone is 95 percent responsible for ERP or the network and only 5 percent responsible for security, they naturally focus on the 95 percent. I took that 5 percent and gave it to full-time people who understand the issues, are dedicated to them, and can educate IT and hold everyone accountable.

I don’t think you can be too secure. The real concern is that you’ll make things too cumbersome. That’s why, when designing a new process, we try to get an up-front understanding of how it will affect employees.

We catch most problems during user acceptance testing, but some issues surface only after we have a critical mass of users on the system. Although we rarely need to undo a new control once it’s in place, we can certainly fine-tune it to make sure it continues to balance security with efficiency.

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