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IT Security Threat Reaches Executive Level

The success of a company now relies on its ability to secure critical data.  When escalated to this level of importance, it's time for the CEO and board to become directly engaged in the process.

The traditional role of IT has changed significantly in recent years.  IT professionals, previously tasked with configuring office computers and network servers, are now entrusted with securing trade secrets and highly sensitive customer records.  Add to this a surge of cloud-based applications and storage that make an organization's data vulnerable and the IT department suddenly has a very full plate.

Organizations are being targeted primarily for the purpose of financial gain.  Customer records often include sensitive data that can be easily monetized, providing ample motivation for both hackers and internal threats.  As companies increase their digital assets -- through the harvesting of more customer personal, financial and transaction information - they become a higher profile target for thieves.

Failure to Recognize a Breach

single sign-on breachFirewallThe challenge often seems to be detecting and resolving intrusions.  Sometimes the first notification of a breach comes from federal investigators who've discovered the organization's data on the open market.  Even when signs of suspicious activity present themselves, too frequently the threat is not given proper escalation.

Of greatest concern is the timely reporting of incidents through the levels of company leadership, regulatory authorities and, ultimately, the effected parties. The IT department might feel compelled to research and resolve the breach before notifying senior management.  This can turn a potentially damaging situation into a public relations nightmare.

Common Language is Key

The solution begins with establishing a communication channel and common language between business and IT leaders.  Together they must understand and agree upon the level of risk the organization is willing to tolerate.

These marching orders allow the IT department to make a plan that meets these strategic needs.  Once completed, the gaps, priorities, and strategy needs to be communicated back to the CEO and board in a language that top leadership can understand.

Lastly, don't deny the limitations of your IT department.  The complexities and rapidly changing nature of security breaches may require the assistance of outside expertise to keep systems and procedures current.

This post is based on a TechRepublic article by Michael Kassner titled, "C-level execs need to rethink IT security".  

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