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Risk mapping key to security, business integration

It’s no secret that data protection has become integral to bottom line success for digital businesses. As a result, it’s time for InfoSec professionals to crawl out of their caves and start communicating with the rest of the business, Tom Kartanowicz, head of information security at Natixis, North America, told the audience at the recent CDM Media CISO Summit.

To facilitate this communication, the language these pros will use is the language of security risk, Kartanowicz said.

“As security professionals, if we want to be taken seriously we need to put what we do into the risk lens to talk to the business so they understand the impact and how we’re trying to reduce the impact of the types of threats we’re seeing,” Kartanowicz said.

For example, even though the chief information security officer and chief risk officer may appear to be two different islands in an organization, they are part of the same team, he reminded the audience.

Business is the bridge that links them together so instead of working in silos, security professionals should carve out what Kartanowicz calls a “friends and family plan” that forms allies with other departments in their organization. The human resources department can help discipline somebody who might be an internal threat to the organization, corporate communications can help talk to the media and customers when there are incidents like DDoS and malware attacks, and the legal department can be valuable allies when it is time to take action against bad actors, he explained.

“As the CISO or as the head of InfoSec, you are missing out on a lot of valuable intelligence if you are not talking to all these different teams,” he stressed.

Risk mapping — a data visualization tool that outlines an organization’s specific risks — is an effective way to identify threats and vulnerabilities, then communicate them to the business, he said. Risk mapping helps an organization identify the areas where it’s going to spend their security budget, how to implement solutions and, most importantly, helps identify specific instances of risk reduction, he said.

Kartanowicz said there are two things to consider when evaluating and determining the likelihood of a risk: how easy is it to exploit and how often it occurs.

“If the vulnerabilities require technical skills held by 1% of the population, it’s going to be pretty difficult to exploit,” he said. “If on the other hand, anybody on the street can exploit it, it’s going to be pretty easy.”

It is then time to address the specific risks, he said.

“In the enterprise risk management world, the business can accept the risks, avoid the risks or [work to] mitigate the risks — this is where InfoSec comes in — or transfer the risks,” he said.

Using tools such as the NIST cybersecurity framework can help InfoSec reduce the risks, he said. It’s important that organizations tie in their disaster recovery, backup strategy, business continuity and crisis management into whatever the framework they choose, he added. Organizations should also ensure they have baseline controls in place to help minimize the risk of a data breach, he added.

But as threats evolve and vulnerabilities change, he suggested that the risk map be re-evaluated annually. Business requirements are constantly evolving and organizations are always entering different markets, but companies need to be constantly aware of the threat landscape, he added.

“Incidents will always occur; risk is not going away,” he said.