Why Security Matters Now

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File-sharing applications: 46%

Laptops: 39%

Removable Media: 23%

Backup Tapes: 16%

Multiple Responses Allowed

Convinced they couldn't do it on their own, companies chose outsourcers to do it for them. Gartner estimated the MSSP market in North America alone would reach $900 million in 2004 and that it would grow another 18 percent by 2008.

Then came the economic tsunami, which appears to have cast a shadow over outsourcing plans even though security budgets are holding steady. Although 31 percent of respondents this year are relying on outsiders to help them manage day-to-day security functions, only 18 percent said they plan to make security outsourcing a priority in the next 12 months.

When it comes to specific functions, the shift has already begun. Last year, 30 percent of respondents said they were outsourcing management of application firewalls, compared to 16 percent today. Respondents cited similar reductions in outsourcing of network and end-user firewalls. Companies have also cut back on outsourcing encryption management and patch management.

At the same time, more companies are spending money on these and other security functions. Sixty-nine percent said they're budgeting for application firewalls, up slightly compared to the past two years. Meanwhile, more than half of respondents said they are investing in encryption for laptops and other computing devices.

The results surprise Lobel of PricewaterhouseCoopers. "When you think about it logically, some IT organizations have the resources and maturity to manage their operating systems and patches, but many don't," he observes. "Hopefully, the numbers simply mean IT shops have grown more mature in their security understanding."

Security Budgets Hold Stead

More companies are increasing spending than cutting it.

Direction of Spending

Increase: 38%

Stay the Same: 25%

Decrease: 12%

Don't Know: 24%

Numbers may not add up to 100% due to rounding

Gius of Atmos Energy offered another possible explanation: Companies see a lot of chaos in the security market with an avalanche of mergers and acquisitions. One independent security vendor after another has merged with or been acquired by other companies. Examples include BT's acquisition of Counterpane and IBM's acquisition of Internet Security Systems. IT leaders are simply getting out of the way until the industry settles down.

Gius says Atmos Energy is handling most of its security in-house right now. "We pursued a number of open-source and lower-cost solutions to manage it ourselves," he says. "We invested in two people to help ensure we had the skills to manage that environment." But he'd like to outsource more if it makes sense financially. He notes that security is increasingly integrated into the platforms provided by the likes of Microsoft, Cisco and Oracle, as well as telecom providers like Comcast and Verizon. It makes sense to him to have those providers manage the security of their systems.

Beard, with SAIC, says that no matter what drives security spending decisions, companies should understand their specific security strategies and where managed security providers can offer unique value. Smart business executives understand that they must maintain control of the big picture at all times, even if a third party is managing many of the levers. Keeping an eye on security service providers and the risks they are encountering is essential. "CIOs and security officers may outsource certain functions to various degrees, but they should never outsource their responsibility," Beard advises.

Trend # 4

A New Corporate Commitment

CIOs may still struggle with the quality of their data security, but the response to this year's survey suggests their executive peers have agreed, finally, that security can't be ignored.

Companies' budget plans tell part of the story. Not only are more companies investing in security technologies, but overall security investments are largely intact, despite the economy.

Twelve percent of respondents expect their security spending to decline in the next 12 months. But 63 percent say their budgets will hold steady or increase (although fewer foresee increases than did last year).

For starters, more companies are hiring CSOs or chief information security officers (CISOs). Eighty-five percent of respondents said their companies now have a security executive, up from 56 percent last year and 43 percent in 2006. Just under one-third of security chiefs report to CIOs, 35 percent to CEOs and 28 percent to boards of directors.

Two factors are influencing companies to maintain security as a corporate priority: Seventy-six percent say the increased risk environment has elevated the importance of cybersecurity among the top brass, while 77 percent said the increasingly tangled web of regulations and industry standards has added to the sense of urgency.

Respondents were asked how important various security strategies had become in the context of harsher economic realities. Seventy percent cited the growing importance of data protection while 68 percent cited the need to strengthen the company's governance, risk and compliance programs.

Notes Mauricio Angée, senior manager of IT security and compliance and CSO at Universal Orlando: "For segregation of duty purposes, it's interesting to see how companies are being asked--by compliance auditors, qualified security assessors and through legislation--to hire IT security managers with a much-more-defined set of roles and responsibilities." Such roles include setting the company's security policy, making the security budget pitch (instead of the CIO) and delegating responsibility among lower-level IT security administrators and engineers.

How Cybercrime Costs You

Losses from incidents average $833,000.

The Business Impact of Security Breaches

Financial Loss: 42%

Brand or Reputation Compromised: 30%

Intellectual Property Theft: 29%

Home Page Altered or Defaced: 20%

Fraud: 17%

Multiple Responses Allowed

None of these developments, however, make a focus on information security a sure bet in the eyes of IT leaders. Just because companies feel they have to spend money on security doesn't mean executives view it as an essential, even beneficial business process instead of a pain-in-the-neck task being forced upon them.

Angée said CIOs and security leaders still have to fight hard for every penny. Meanwhile, security execs don't have the same decision-making power as other C-level leaders in every company, says PricewaterhouseCoopers' Lobel. CIOs can bring in a CSO or CISO without a strategy and budget for that person to work with and end up achieving nothing. If something goes wrong, he concludes, "all you'll have is somebody to blame and fire."

Bill Brenner is a senior editor with CSO magazine and CSOonline.com.

Do you Tweet? Follow me on Twitter @BillBrenner70. Follow everything from CIO Magazine @CIOMagazine.

This story, "Why Security Matters Now" was originally published by CIO.

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