Featured Post – Security Is Not the Point
[This popular post first appeared on SecurityDreamer in November 2006]
Articulating the Value of Security…
It’s an uphill battle to convince the decision-makers in any business that they need to invest in security. Why? Because deep down, all professional businesspeople think security is an annoying layer of cost and inconvenience.
If you walk in and tell them, “We need more security,” they hear, “We need a more annoying layer of cost and inconvenience.”
Getting the buy-in for security products and services today means understanding what drives your company’s security purchase decisions—basically, what is going on in the mind of your bosses. Fear, uncertainty and doubt are not the cleverest tools to use anymore. The security industry is undergoing changes as it adjusts to the convergence of IT with physical security, and businesses are changing, too. Now businesses want something that sometimes seems like a foreign concept to the security profession: value. If you don’t adapt and start answering the questions your business is really interested in, you’ll never get the green light on new projects and upgrades.
Remember, nobody wants security; they want the benefits of security. That means that the housewife doesn’t want the finest deadbolt on the front door because of the excellence of its engineering or its impact resistance. She wants a comfortable, happy place to raise her family.
Businesses also want something other than security. If a bank manager has a mandate to reduce expenses related to bank tellers, she has a couple of options. She could fire all the tellers and lock up all the bank branches, but then the bank would have no interface with its customers. Or she could take all the money, put it in piles on the street corner under a clipboard that says, “Take what you want, but write it down so we may balance your account.” That wouldn’t work either, obviously.
The best solution for reducing teller expenses is to take the money, put in on the street corner locked in a box with a computer attached, and give customers a plastic card for authentication and auditing.
Security was never the point. The bank had a business objective and achieved it by using some security. That is how we all should think of security: as a way of helping our companies achieve the goals or value they seek.
Business managers, especially executives at the highest levels of an organization, have a very simple view of security: It is a tool in the corporate toolbox for enabling business. But they don’t even think of it as security.
The manager responsible for an online ecommerce business wants a few things. He wants to know who is using his Web site. He wants to ensure that each one can do everything on that site they need to do. He has a lot of people doing a lot of things, so he needs an easy way to manage it. And at the end of the day or the end of the quarter, he needs a report that tells him what has happened so he can improve customer satisfaction, reduce errors and increase profits.
In that example we have all four fundamental categories of security—authentication, authorization, administration and audit—but the manager doesn’t think of security once! That’s because security is not the point.
Focus on Value
I have suggested many times that, whenever possible, security professionals should purge the word “security” from their vocabulary. Instead, answer the questions inside your boss’s head, and don’t simply spout the ways security keeps bad things from happening.
Your upper management thinks in terms of money, not security. What people will be needed? What headcount can we reduce? How much will it cost? How much will we save? What new revenue can we earn as a result of this investment? And they think not in terms of security risks, but in terms of credit risk, market risks and operational risks. That’s where you can shine.
One U.S. company spent $35 million on physical security upgrades after 9-11, and $4 million on IT security upgrades. Last fall they failed their Sarbanes-Oxley audit because of poor security. How? Visitors were given a badge for the day, but they could still walk unescorted past cubicles with unattended computers logged into financial systems. At that moment the audit no longer had confidence in the integrity of the numbers. Anyone could have moved a decimal point or added a zero.
If you know your facilities need more security, tell your managers how it will help them measure or achieve compliance to regulations like Sarbanes-Oxley: You audit employee behavior, or lock up financial systems, or shred financial documents, or do background checks, or secure backup tapes. For any business problem, you should be prepared to help your management identify the ways that the authentication, authorization, administration or audit solutions you’re proposing will solve their problem, or help customers make the gains they hope for.
Remember, it is not our job to secure the building. Our job is to secure the business.