Do you ever get those thoughts in the back of your mind that somehow, at some point, your organization is going to experience a security breach? I know that’s the kind of stuff that tends to keep chief information security officers (CISOs) and other security leaders up at night. The thing is, much of these thoughts are just that — thoughts.

Thoughts, in and of themselves, really mean nothing when it comes to security incidents and breaches. After all, how could something that’s intangible and often rooted in stress manifest as a tangible outcome that puts you in the headlines and leads to that dreaded toxic CV?

Go With Your Gut

I think we’ve all had those feelings deep down in the pits of our stomachs that something’s going on and weird things are about to happen. But none of these thoughts really matter at the end of the day when you have gaping holes in your information security program.

Over 15 years ago, I wrote an article titled “The 21 Best Ways to Lose Your Information.” Many of those things still apply to enterprise information security programs today. Looking at things from a broader perspective, here are some common mistakes I have observed in my work performing security assessments and consulting that can directly impact your organization’s security posture.

Your business may be at risk of a security breach if:

  • You have failed to get all the right people in executive management, legal, HR and other departments on board with your security initiatives.
  • You don’t fully understand your true risk posture. Maybe you are performing ongoing risk assessments, but you’re not looking at all the areas that matter. Perhaps you’re not using the right tools, or maybe you’re taking the wrong approaches. Whatever it is, you still haven’t uncovered the risks lurking in your environment.
  • You have well-documented policies with no true substance backing them up in terms of technical controls and business processes.
  • You have failed to connect with your user base in terms of security. Your culture remains one of IT against everyone else, or IT is placed on the back burner until an incident occurs.
  • You lack an incident response plan that includes investigative and recovery procedures as well as contact information for outside parties that you’ll need to call for assistance.
  • You’re not invited to legal, audit or enterprise risk meetings that involve the security initiatives you’re managing.

You know the saying: When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Is your security program going to hold up to that? Can you rely on your people, technologies and processes to absorb whatever negative impacts come your way?

How to Stop a Security Breach in Its Tracks

I think most people believe their information security programs are better than they really are — it’s human nature. It’s up to you, as the information security leader, to play devil’s advocate. Don’t be ashamed to ask tough questions or reveal the ugly parts of your program. After all, acknowledgment and diagnosis account for more than half of what it takes to build a strong information security program.

Right now, odds are probably not in your favor to detect and prevent security breaches. Make the decision to change that. Things are only going to become more complicated in your organization. Security holes that are plugged and processes that are built out starting today will serve to bolster your security program for years to come.

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