On Monday, Hurricane Sandy slammed into the East Coast of the United States, flooding entire towns in New York and New Jersey, triggering large-scale power outages and killing at least 17 people. The health and safety of individuals is the first and foremost priority, followed by the recovery of critical infrastructure services (power, water, hospital services, transportation etc.). As these services begin to recover, many business and IT leaders are wondering how they will resume normal operations to ensure the long-term financial viability of the company and the livelihoods of their employees and how they will serve their loyal customers.
Most likely, if you have offices that lie in the path of Hurricane Sandy, you are experiencing some sort of business disruption, large or small. The largest enterprises, especially those in financial services, spend an enormous amount of money on business, workforce and IT resiliency strategies. Many of them shifted both business and IT workloads to other corporate locations in advance of the storm, proactively closed offices and directed employees to work from home or a designated alternate site.
If you are small and medium enterprise and, like many of your peers, you didn’t have an alternate workforce site, robust work-from-home employee capabilities, an automated notification system or a recovery data center, what do you do now? While it’s too late to implement many measures to improve resiliency, there are several things you can do now to help your organization return to normal operations ASAP. Here are Forrester’s top recommendations for senior business technology leaders:
My house sits atop a hill overlooking the Atlantic Ocean (hence, the neighborhood name of “Beachmont”) and was built sometime in 1890. It’s one of the tallest houses in the neighborhood and as I write this post, my house is swaying back and forth from 50 mile an hour winds (I’ve been told it’s meant to sway which is somewhat comforting but not entirely) and from my porch, I can see waves crashing over the sea wall and slamming into my neighbor’s homes below me. Needless to say, I have a vested interest in the emergency response to Hurricane Sandy.
There will be time for more detailed analysis later but here are just some initial observations and thoughts:
FEMA has come a long way since the incompetent response to Hurricane Katrina.
The response at the federal, state and local level has been much more proactive than I’ve ever seen it in the past. Many New England and Northeast states began communicating to cities and towns about the seriousness of the storm almost a week in advance, many declared emergencies as early as Saturday, and many insisted on mandatory evacuations for the riskiest areas.
The overall approach is better safe than sorry, even if worst fears about the storm don’t materialize.
I recently attended Trend Micro’s Insight 2012 event for an update on corporate and product strategy from Trend executives, hear from partners and enterprise customers about their experiences working with Trend Micro, and sit down to 1:1's with business unit leaders. I met with Carol Carpenter, EVP of Consumer, who shared a bit about what Trend is doing for consumers and provided demos of their latest Android mobile apps out on the market and in development. Of the ones available now, they are the usual suspects – mobile security, backup and restore, and a password manager. And then, there’s a battery optimizer app. Random? No, not really.
Consumer security has come a long way from simply antivirus software for PCs. Mobile security is undoubtedly on everyone’s minds at this point (oh no! device loss, malware, my apps are spying on me!), but that’s only one factor (albeit a big one) contributing to the evolution of this consumer security market. We’re looking at protecting devices, data, identities, interactions, privacy, the consumer – in short, the online experience. That’s where the umbrella of consumer security expands, and I see apps like Trend’s battery optimizer fitting in. It’s not a “security” solution in the traditional sense, and more of a productivity tool. Consumers gain visibility into what the device and apps are doing (to the battery), and using that information to then make an informed decision (e.g., stop running that app, turn off Wi-Fi, etc) to preserve battery because it’s running too low for comfort.
In the paper, I argue that we need to associate the value of information security with the value of the information assets we protect. How is this value determined, you may ask? Well, ask away, because in the paper I outline a method to determine that value. It’s simple. We live in an information economy and even though we may be a bank, manufacturer, or a retailer, at the end of the day we wouldn’t be in business without information. In many ways information is what we sell.
Think about it; if we associate information security with asset value defined by the revenue these assets produce, we would understand how to prioritize security effort and we would have a lot more productive conversations at budget time.
Join in the debate, and tell me why this approach couldn’t work in your firm. I want to hear from you.
I just wrote a paper on the value of information security. Please see the paper here. It is something I have thought about for a long time. Information security as a technical discipline but someone has to pay for all this fun we are having. My assumption is that as Willie Sutton is quoted as saying "Go where the money is...and go there often.” Today where organized crime and nation states are going is to information. It is amazingly easy to monetize certain kinds of information. There is a buyer for everything that hackers can steal. The impact to business has been debated for some time and we go to great lengths to perform risk assessments. What we don't do such a good job of is monetizing that risk.
Consider this. If we can monetize the information asset, we should be able to monetize the risk to that asset. The key to monetizing risk is knowing the value of the asset at risk. Different systems for risk assessment have been in place for some time. They all seem to revolve around professional judgment. My argument is that using a combination of threat modeling (war planning) plus simple asset monetization will allow us to monetize risk. The results will not be perfect, but they should be directionally correct. As Doug Hubbard says it is better to be directionally correct than specifically wrong.
I just finished a research document titled Measure The Effectiveness Of Your Data Security And Privacy Program for the The Security Architecture And Operations Playbook. This was a lot of fun to write, because I was able to look back at the 50-plus interviews conducted over the last year, all of them focused on the security metrics issue. This seems like such a hard question to answer. My conclusion is that many security organizations are measuring the wrong things.
There are several reasons for this. Here are a few of my observations:
We always measure this.
It’s too hard to get any other data.
Our budgets are fixed so we just do the best we can.
Each year, Forrester Research and the Disaster Recovery Journal team up to launch a study examining the state of business and technology resiliency. Each year, we focus on a particular resiliency domain: business continuity, IT disaster recovery or crisis management and enterprise risk management. The studies provide BC and other risk managers an understanding of how they compare to the overall industry and to their peers. While each organization is unique due to its size, industry, long-term business objectives, and tolerance for risk, it's helpful to see where the industry is trending, and I’ve found that peer comparisons are always helpful when you need to convince skeptical executives that change is necessary. For better or for worse, it is a fundamental part of human nature to want to go with the herd. For those who are interested, there is a great Freaknomics podcast on the subject called “Riding the Herd Mentality: A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast.”