By Pritesh Parekh, CSO & VP at Zuora
Business alignment, defense-in-depth and a phased approach are three principles to follow when building out a solid security program.
Information is an asset; it’s the lifeblood of businesses. Companies know this — and so do criminals. That’s why it’s more important than ever for security professionals to think more expansively about information as an asset, compliance controls, privacy, and transparency and to take a proactive approach to security, beginning with a strong security strategy.
In order to define your security strategy, you first need to determine the right security investment for your organization. There are three criteria that can help:
- Legal, regulatory, and industry compliance requirements. There are specific compliance requirements, depending on your product or services, the type of data that you collect or process, and the countries in which you provide your services. For example, if you’re collecting credit card information for your consumers, there is a PCI compliance requirement. If you’re collecting patient healthcare information, HIPAA compliance may apply. If you’re providing your services in Europe and collecting European citizens’ personal data, European privacy law comes into play. Your specific compliance requirements will guide much of what you will need to invest in your security program.
- Business risk exposure. Examine how much business risk you’re exposed to, and what the financial impact would be in the case of a data breach. According to studies associated with data breaches, estimated costs range from $50 per record up to $154 per record. To determine cost per record in case of a data breach for your organization, consider what kind of data are you collecting, processing and storing in your systems. For example, if you’re collecting credit card information and Social Security numbers, and that information is compromised, the cost associated with that breach may be higher than other types of breaches.
- Business and sales drivers. Your customers expect you to provide the highest level of security. Having a strong security program is a competitive advantage that can allow companies to win a larger share of the market. In many cases, a strong security program can be the determining factor in closing deals.
Now that you’ve determined the right investment for your company, you can define your security strategy according to these key principles:
- Business alignment. Security vision, mission, and goals should align with your business. Ensure that security is supporting the business by working on the right set of priorities. I strongly suggest meeting with your business and technology owners to understand the services they provide, their priorities, and what they see as the top security threats and opportunities. Then work in collaboration with the business and technology owners to take a risk-based approach to rank risks.
- Defense in depth. The goal should be to have multiple layers of security so that if one or two layers of security are compromised, your information and assets will remain protected. The most important consideration here is to balance security and business needs. Security controls should be as seamless as possible without impacting usability or employee productivity.
- Phased approach. When you build out your security strategy, start with a small set of security controls to address your business risk. Create a baseline and then build upon it. Once you’ve established the baseline and set a foundation, you can start scaling your program, defining the set of controls needed for maturity and leadership. It’s important to understand industry best practices and look to other companies that have set the bar high with their security programs. Remember to start small: This is not a one-time process, but rather a continuous improvement cycle. The threat landscape is continuously changing, and you need to adapt.
Complexity is the modern world — there’s no avoiding it. But you can try to control it. By making the right security investment and strategically building out a solid security strategy and program, you can manage complexity, minimize vulnerabilities, and rally your entire organization around security as a team effort and top priority.
For more insight into security strategy, check out our guide Keeping Your Cloud Secure: A CIOs Favorite Topic!