Network Security, Risk Assessments/Management

Strong toolsets and a focus on risk makes security a business enabler

The security team at bp built a risk barometer that put the company more in touch with its security performance. Today’s columnist, Monzy Merza of Databricks, says by combining a focus on risk with strong tools companies can make security a business enabler.

The pandemic and its resulting economic pressures have accelerated digital transformation timelines for many organizations. Use of cloud applications and services has exploded and remote employees are bridging their home networks to the corporate network. The cyber terrain has changed. The assets, the network, the people and the services are diverse and highly distributed, a daunting revolution for security operations teams. But it’s also a tremendous opportunity to transform operations and reinvent the role of the security team.

As we head deeper into 2021, here are the three considerations that will help security pros make their teams business enablers in volatile times:

  • Think of security as a business enabler. 

Security threats and technologies have evolved over the last decade. And security operations have primarily been reacting to threats and tech explosion, and not partnering in digital transformations. This reactive approach has prevented security teams from being seen as a strategic partner to the business. But security teams can play a significant role in the way businesses innovate and go to market. 

I have learned that the mindset shift happens in three parts: First, stay aware of the most important business priorities and initiatives. For example, if the company wants to become a Cloud First enterprise, the security teams need to embrace that message, and align the security objectives with measurable, contributing outcomes for this business objective. Second, be more inclusive and humbler. Modern infrastructures are complex and evolving, and one team alone cannot understand the entire terrain without support from other experts. Finally, share with a persona-based focus. Leaders and their teams don’t know what they don’t know. They see the world through the specific lens of the work functions they perform, so while a Denial-of-Service (DoS) attack may be top of mind for the SecOps team, it may sound like a different language to the line of business. Educate with a lens towards actionability for the individuals.

By collaborating and focusing on the alignment of top business initiatives, security leaders can help the organization as a whole embrace the mindset of security as a business enabler.

  • Empower the business through self-service and personalized security. 

While security teams need to focus on identifying and mitigating potential threats, they don’t have to operate as the lone shepherds. When security teams enable the broader organization, every employee can become a champion. Empower the business through self-service by building APIs to include security integration and automation as part of the CI/CD pipelines and IT deployments. This approach can help to support developers e.g. with vulnerability management. 

Security teams can also develop individual or team-level risk dashboards to make it easier for employees and app developers to track their respective risk postures and empower them to embrace security considerations within their day-to-day work. For instance, the security team at bp built a risk barometer where each person can see their own status on a gauge. Denis Ontiveros Merlo, bp's vice president of developer and identity platforms, says this dashboard helps people learn more about security and take a more proactive approach to improve their scores.

Finally, providing business-level security reporting can help decision-makers understand the impact of certain risks on the success of business initiatives. The metrics in these reports differ depending on industry, organization size, and other factors, but sample metrics could include time to market, revenue, customer acquisition, or top/bottom line results.

  • Leverage technology to modernize security ops for cloud and remote work. 

The pandemic has caused an increase in security threats for organizations with the onset of remote work and expansion of edge and cloud computing. Modern tools are a key lever in the broader business strategy, and a strong evaluation of build and buy is clearly warranted at this inflection point caused by the pandemic. 

Start by taking inventory of your security team’s technology capabilities and conducting a deep-dive assessment of the security team’s processes. This will help the team understand the collective impact on its ability to help progress the business forward and reduce risk in the new cyber terrain. It’s important to not seek parity — discard tools or processes that have marginal impact and stay open to exploring new ideas. Invest in modern tools, processes and education opportunities to support the prevention, detection and response capabilities of the security team and help extend those to modern applications and services. 

It’s also equally important to cultivate the right skill sets on the team to optimize the company’s technology investments. Acquire and develop talent with skills across cloud stacks, automation, machine learning and AI to accelerate the organization’s security digital transformation and get ahead of threats. 

The pandemic has accelerated the urgency around shifting the enterprise approach to security. Security leaders can act now to reset the culture and mindset of not only their sec ops teams, but the entire organization. With data and analytics emerging as important differentiators across all industries, security ops teams can become strategic to the success of their organizations. Security leaders who act now will see the careers of all their team members accelerate as security becomes a differentiator in the data- driven economy.

Monzy Merza, vice president, cybersecurity, Databricks

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