When it comes to running an information security program, barriers to success are predictable. Many are quite obvious, such as lack of budget and minimal buy-in. Others, not so much. Still, it’s often the small things that add up to create real security hurdles.
Some that I’ve witnessed — and you have likely experienced — include:
- Individuals inside the organization have a specific agenda, which is often to prevent security initiatives from being pushed through.
- Users are accustomed the culture of, “Management says that security is IT’s problem, therefore it’s not mine to worry about.”
- Security product vendors overpromise and underdeliver, perpetuating security risks.
- IT and security staff waste precious time on trivial tasks.
Barriers such as these get in the way of achieving results in security. And, not unlike the eating and exercising habits we tend to take on, negative outcomes can sneak up in a hurry.
Setbacks in security are an inevitable part of the process. It’s like any other important aspect of life such as marital relations or business dealings: If you sit back and just let things happen rather than confronting the issue firsthand, things tend to fester. Resentment grows, passive aggressiveness rears its head and nothing ends up being done. The problems just get worse.
Clearing Common Security Barriers
So, how do you address these tangible impediments to security? Well, the specific approach depends on the situation. Many people give up at this point and just let things play out. Don’t do that! If you’re going to cut through the nonsense and get things done, it’s going to take guts, chutzpah and the motivation to affect change.
One of the most important things that’s innocently overlooked — or intentionally ignored — is just getting the topic out onto the table. Corporate America, and I presume in other countries around the world, is great at stifling progress because of political correctness or the fear of losing one’s job and retirement plan. Many people are afraid to rock the boat at work, especially when it’s something like information security, which doesn’t necessarily always have good buy-in outside the IT department. It’s classic politics at play, but that doesn’t make it right.
A great exercise to figure out current challenges in your security program is to open the issue with management and/or your peers and then proceed asking the tough questions. These questions might include:
- What’s going on here?
- How is it impacting the business?
- Why do we think this is happening?
- What is currently being done to address the issue?
- What’s required to take the bull by the horns and get this initiative/project on the right track?
- How do we ensure steps are being made in the right direction? When do we do that?
This is really nothing more than textbook problem-solving with a bit of assertiveness mixed with passion. It may just be precisely what’s needed to get you and your program out of a rut.
Great Risks, Great Rewards
President Trump has taken this approach to leading the U.S.: He observes what’s going on in Washington, D.C., calls it like he sees it and then vows to make changes. Only time will tell whether those changes will come to fruition. After all, talk is cheap in politics — and cybersecurity.
As brash as it may seem, I think this is a good approach to tackling what’s holding your security program back. You need to be prepared to get the runaround, pushback and, perhaps, put your job at risk. The greatest leaders in history have been the ones that have been brave enough to step up, stand out and question what’s going on. This is your opportunity to stand out.
If you’re having such challenges in your information security program and you don’t feel passionate enough to stand up and do these things, then it’s probably time to move on to a different organization or different role where you can have the ear of decision-makers and find a way to make things happen.