There was a time when every application used in the enterprise application portfolio was either selected and deployed by the chief information officer (CIO) or at least vetted under the management of IT. The advent of software-as-a-service (SaaS) computing options led to the rise of shadow IT, which has allowed individuals to make their own decisions about what applications met the needs of their departments.
Today the practice has morphed to a somewhat more controlled version in which departments still exercise relative autonomy because they control their own IT budgets. This trend has put distance between the CIO and the enterprise application portfolio.
Securing Your Application Portfolio
As applications become more specialized to support highly targeted functions, they are also increasingly connected to other applications and datasets in the enterprise. That means the marketing automation system that maintains sales-related data likely accesses product information from supply chain systems and customer data from accounting systems. The connections simplify and accelerate operations. Without adequate oversight and control, however, they can open channels for possible data breaches.
Departments that operate their own applications may understand them well, but they likely lack the technical abilities or authority to validate the level of security as applications connect, as demonstrated by a recent Positive Research Center study. All applications reviewed in the study contained “at least medium-severity vulnerabilities,” while 70 percent had a critical vulnerability. The study noted that the trend had increased steadily over the last three years.
The testing employed automated tools that didn’t require any specific understanding of the target applications, meaning data thieves are able to send their penetration tools across a wide range of enterprises and applications attempting to gain access. Once the tool finds an opening, it can exploit the breach and notify the attacker of the opportunity.
An Arxan Technologies study of applications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found similar vulnerabilities. According to the report, 84 percent of the FDA-approved apps tested failed to address at least two of the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) top 10 mobile security risks. Furthermore, 95 percent of those apps lacked binary protection.
The CIO’s New Mandate
Security must be assured for every application in the enterprise portfolio, and that level of responsibility rests at the top of the enterprise IT organizational chart. Attaining an adequate level of assurance on the security of applications is the new mandate for CIOs as data centers and infrastructure control continues to move away from internal to cloud-based systems.
The CIO must become familiar with the entire range of applications being used throughout the enterprise. Moreover, the security leader should be involved at the initial stages of application selection and evaluation to ensure that departmental decisions made to improve functionality don’t open gateways for attackers.
To learn even more about the latest Application Security Testing technology trends from Gartner Research, you can also read the “Automation and Integration Critical to Application Security Tool Adoption” report.
Freelance Writer and Former CIO
Scott Koegler practiced IT as a CIO for 15 years. He also has more than 20 years experience as a technology journalist covering topics ranging from software ...