What’s Your Security Modus Operandi? Prepare, Protect and Respond

In a recent article on TechRepublic, researchers at the University of Arizona’s Artificial Intelligence Laboratory described their ongoing study into the operations, interactions and communications of the hacker community. Specifically, researchers noted how organized they are, how tight-knit their community is and how they “always have and always will change things up.” Sound familiar?

Cybercriminals do not necessarily have a formally written framework under which they operate, but it may be surprising to learn that they are organized around some modus operandi. This is deeply cultural, social and unstructured, and it is effective in achieving their objectives.

Establishing a Modus Operandi for Security

As an IT or security leader with strong governance policies and increasing pressures thanks to compliance, business innovations and workforce behaviors, you cannot rely on fixed technology responses to navigate the security minefield. Simply throwing more security technology at a growing problem is like reaching for a simple ibuprofen for a migraine headache: It only provides temporary relief and doesn’t cure the underlying cause. In security, it is important to understand the context and critical interdependencies that put your organization at risk and then set your priorities and guiding principles accordingly.

Thinking about security from the perspective of modus operandi and working with a framework that delivers the guidance and principles behind decision-making helps leaders. Everyone in the organization is better equipped to navigate through the toughest of changes, growing business needs and, most of all, cyber dangers.

At IBM, we work with clients to adopt a framework called 10 Essential Security Practices in which we assess security capabilities, readiness and maturity. Then we develop a profile for security governance and processes, helping clients to establish long-term programs.

Essential Security Practices to Consider

The 10 essential security practices are designed to be the modus operandi for security and IT leaders. The framework encourages professionals to assess and develop appropriate strategies based on:

  1. A risk-aware culture;
  2. The establishment of intelligent security operations and rapid threat response;
  3. Secure collaboration in the social and mobile workplace;
  4. The development of security-rich products and applications by design;
  5. A hygienic approach to securing systems and infrastructure;
  6. The creation of a security-rich and resilient network;
  7. Best practices for addressing security complexities in the cloud and virtualization technologies;
  8. The careful management of third-party security compliance;
  9. Assuring data security and privacy; and
  10. How to manage the digital identity life cycle.


To operate cybersecurity as a true enterprise function, organizations need a framework within which to establish their security program, understand the context and critical interdependencies of initiatives and set priorities accordingly. Such a framework can also be used to identify gaps, monitor progress and achieve other strategic security objectives. This is all done while ensuring security programs are fully coordinated with an organization’s core business objectives and initiatives.

Are you ready to adopt a framework and prioritize a long-term plan for your security capabilities, readiness and maturity? Watch this video series about the 10 essential security practices to learn more.

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Dimple Ahluwalia

Partner & Director for Security Consulting Services, IBM

Dimple Ahluwalia is an executive for IBM Security Services and is responsible for security consulting and systems integration business in North America. Prior to this position, she was an IT Risk Executive for the Office of the IBM CISO. Her responsibilities included executing a multi-year cybersecurity strategy for the IBM corporation and managing the enterprise information security awareness program. She was also responsible for investment management and security testing. Previously, she managed the IBM Secure Engineering and Product Security Incident Response programs for the IBM portfolio, and prior to that led the IBM Security Project Office. Dimple joined IBM in 2007 with the acquisition of Consul Risk Management, where she was Director of Customer Support and Services worldwide.