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Security Comes in All Different Shapes and Sizes

March 11, 2010

Late last week, I read a blog that quoted Caleb Sima as saying, “…developers shouldn’t learn anything about security. It’s not their job.” I felt compelled to write about the piece, not to support or condemn that statement, but rather to encourage people to think about the bigger picture.

You see, there are a variety of factors that play into what a security program should contain, and every organization is completely different. Security requirements can be influenced by whether a company is public or private, its vertical markets and even its size, among other things. They can also be impacted by the organization’s level of security awareness.  As a result, some companies may have IT departments that include one security-focused resource; others may have entire departments with multiple resources, while some don’t have any security experts on staff at all. This disparity makes it almost impossible to come up with a one-size-fits-all, cookie cutter approach to information security.

So, rather than focus on the development process, which is clearly just one aspect of security, each company really needs to think about how its overall security program should look when it’s mature. The underlying goal is always to define and develop a program that protects the confidentiality, integrity and availability of information assets. This requires taking the appropriate steps to evaluate the organization’s current risk landscape as well as the risk-reducing potential of available solutions.

Using this risk-based approach, companies will be able to see where they fall short when it comes to compliance, including for regulations and standards such as HIPAA, GLBA, and PCI, and mitigate gaps. Organizations will also be better equipped to address their unique risks with measures that are logical, efficient and cost-effective. Furthermore, companies will be in a position to effectively test the integrity of their existing security program so they can see where their current measures are sufficient and where they are not, and then weigh their priorities based on need.

It is not news to anybody that threats are present in every environment and, regardless of the existence of an information security program, incidents can and do occur. However, organizations that invest time and effort into implementing coherent information security practices reduce both the likelihood (probability) and scope of the episode. This translates into an enormous business impact. Failing to entrust data can be very costly, including the direct expenses associated with detecting, halting and repairing compromised systems, as well as the tangential expenses tied to attempting to restore a ruined reputation. There also are penalties for violating state and federal privacy laws under the principles of unfair or deceptive trade practices, and the inherent loss of productivity, which can result in tens of thousands of dollars a day based on loss of email usage alone. The implications – both financial and operational - skyrocket when malware spreads to other aspects of the computing environment such as servers, workstation operating systems, and file shares.

Think about it. Can your organization really afford to focus only on one piece of the puzzle?

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