How to Achieve Effective Information Security with a Holistic Approach ?

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Introduction

Security has always struggled to get the right attention from the C-suite, but now it takes a different turn, thanks in large part to extremely high-profile data breaches.

However, still, security is tackled in isolation – with a firewall for networks, or an anti-virus for endpoints. Organizations are now looking to develop security strategies that can give right direction to their efforts.

Vendors have responded by providing holistic security solutions that monitor traffic, provide anti-virus, provide information for digital investigations, and so much more. However, perhaps more importantly, organizations are looking to integrate these solutions with finely tuned business processes that help to ensure data security. This article delves into space where security products meet business processes.  

Holistic Approach

The holistic approach to security is gaining momentum now. 

Few of the quick learners are giving more importance to effective information security with a comprehensive approach, and that can have more support from the C-Levels. Many still think about the whole subject (or the lack of it!) when a major security incident strikes the organization!

Those who lead the pack are who learn from their or their peer’s mistakes and take corrective actions. Fool-proof security with a well-established incident management process is the need of the hour.

Security is gaining ground globally, and especially in financial and governmental sectors, who are more focused now to have an effective information security. However, other fields are still in the catch-up space, with some preliminary initiatives like forming at least an IT security function with minimum resources, who handles everything!

However, the recent breaches, governmental and industry regulations are making the inroads. Some corporates are in the direction of setting up a more structured organizational environment for information security to flourish and add value to the business. They are expecting that Information Security can be in a position to address and handle security risks.

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It is in the upwards direction, as organizations are more choosy now and put a bit more thought process to get the best out of the investments they make and to have effective information security. Instead of going for the latest and flashy solutions, effectiveness and Return on Security Investment (ROSI) are getting more attention.

What are the Key Components of a Holistic Program?

A holistic security program must be having clear goal/objectives that define the vision of the organization regarding Information Security. It shall have the minimum goals of ensuring the Confidentiality (C), Integrity (I) and Availability (A) of the Organizational Information.

The approach should contain Technological, Procedural, and people related controls to defend internal and external threats to the data.

If any of these elements are missing, and if no comprehensive view of information security, it is an incomplete program and won’t achieve effective information security. Inconsistency in identifying controls, its implementation and lack of effectiveness – all these do not help to achieve security goals. These could lead to breaches in the end.

Traditionally security was implemented in silos, technology-oriented, or IT focused. It was a responsibility of IT or technology teams to procure the security products and solutions and implement those as they wish. Technology (only) driven security measure is a wrong approach and ineffective and could lead to major security breaches and attacks.

Deploying a firewall, or an Antivirus solution is a focus on this method. Internal security risks, the absence of right processes, or lack of awareness,  was never in the limelight, as much as it should have.

The holistic approach towards security become more “Information” centric so that controls are required wherever the information flows, whether it is “Cloud” or with any external parties.

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These are critical for holistic security and are the main pillars of information security. To achieve security goals/objectives, if any one of these is missing, then the mission is incomplete.

Having the right process for protection, getting the right people with useful knowledge/awareness/information to follow the proper process, and selecting and implementing the right technology to assist/automate the right processes and by removing the dependability on the people on information security are essential components of a holistic approach to Information Security.

These and many others control surrounding the core information security principles, which were forgotten in the traditional or latest approach in security while following the market trends and cutting edge technologies focused approach in security.

Information security approach is the same irrespective of the organizations. Holistic approach towards security is a framework or guiding bar. Needs to have the risk assessment process guides security controls in specific areas or the comprehensiveness of a specific control.

If the risk associated with particular assets, service or process is different from organizations to the organization, a specific element in the holistic security approach may be looked after or implemented in a different way than another. However, the combination or the presence of all the items or the assessment of the relevance of all of the relevant controls are necessary to avoid missing it.

Critical Success Factors

CIOs, CISOs, and even CEOs need to understand that effective Information Security depends on some key success factors. They need to understand that Security is not “IT Security” anymore. It needs to be “Information” Centric. C-Level and business buy-in crucial for the success of Information Security effectiveness.

Visible support from the head of the organization with a clear mandate to all departments. With this, if an approach is taken to assess the threats associated with Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability of information CISO can start his work towards a more efficient security strategy.

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He needs to evaluate and understand where the company stands regarding information security with “CIA” objective/goals. He needs to adopt and establish a framework that can assist him to organize and ensure consistency in approach towards Information security goals, like ISO 27001 or similar ones.
Based on this, identify, develop and work towards initiatives or tasks that focussed on a risk-based approach and “information-centric” direction.

People, process, and technology-based controls need to be identified, deployed and efficiently used/managed. Clear Roadmap to be defined and worked with a holistic approach to information security and success follows.

Identifying the right talented security leaders, nurturing and supporting them, and ensuring a continuous process of monitoring, establishing and testing of the incident management process, and continual improvement in the security measures and activities are key to the program.

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