If You Never Anticipated An Event Like Hurricane Sandy, What Do You Do Now?

Stephanie Balaouras

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:

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The Biggest Risk To BC Preparedness – Third-Party Risk

Stephanie Balaouras

At the recent Disaster Recovery Journal Fall World conference, I gave a presentation of the state of BC readiness. I had some great discussions with the audience (especially about where BC should report), but one of the statistics that really stood out for me and I made it a point to emphasize with the audience, is the state of partner BC readiness.

According to the joint Forrester/Disaster Recovery Journal survey on BC readiness, 51% of BC influencers and decision-makers report that they do not assess the readiness of their partners. If this doesn’t shock you, it should. Forrester estimates that the typical large enterprise has hundreds of third-party relationships – everyone from supply chain partners to business process outsourcers, IT service providers and of course cloud providers. As our reliance on these partners increases so does our risk – if they’re down, it greatly affects your organization’s business performance. And with the increasing availability of cloud services, the number of third parties your organization works with only increases, because now, business owners can quickly adopt a cloud service to meet a business need without the approval of the CIO or CISO and sometimes without the approval of any kind of central procurement organization.

Even among those organizations that do assess partner BC readiness, their efforts are superficial. Only 17% include partners in their own tests and only 10% conduct tests specifically of their critical partners.

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What’s Holding CISOs Back?

Stephanie Balaouras

According to our survey data dating back to 2008, despite year after year of high profile security breaches from Heartland Payment Systems to Wikileaks to Sony, security budgets have only increased by single digits. This is hardly enough to keep up with the increasing sophistication of attacks, the avalanche of breach notification laws and the changing business and IT environment.

The changing business and IT environment is perhaps the greatest concern. With a massive explosion of mobile devices and other endpoint form factors and an ever expanding ecosystem of customers, partners, clouds, service providers and supply chains, you increasingly have less and less direct control over your data, your applications and end-user identities. We refer to this expanding ecosystem as the “extended enterprise.” An extended enterprise is one for which, a business function is rarely, if ever, a self-contained workflow within the infrastructure boundaries of the company. We believe that the extended enterprise is such a major shift for CISOs and security professionals that we dedicated our upcoming Security Forum to it as well as a significant stream of research.

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The Plethora Of BC Standards

Stephanie Balaouras

As a follow-up to my blog post yesterday, there’s another area that’s worth noting in the resurgence of interest in BC preparedness, and that’s standards. For a long time, we’ve had a multitude of both industry and government standards on BCM management including Australian Standards BCP Guidelines, Singapore Standard for Business Continuity / Disaster Recovery Service Providers (which became much of the foundation for ISO 24762 IT Disaster Recovery), FFIEC BCP Handbook, NIST Contingency Planning Guide, NFPA 1600, BS 25999 (which will become much of the foundation for the soon to be released ISO 22301), ISO 27031, etc. There are also standards in other domains that touch on BC, security standards like ISO 27001/27002.

And when you come down to it, several of the broad risk management standards like ISO 31000 are applicable. At the end of the day, the same risk management disciplines underpin BC, DR, security and enterprise risk management. You conduct a BIA, risk assessment, then either accept, transfer or mitigate the risk, develop contingency plans, and make sure to keep the plans up to date and tested.

In my most recent research into various BCM software vendors and BC consultancies, as well as input from Forrester clients, BS 25999 seems to be the standard with the most interest and adoption. In the US at least, part of this I attribute to the fact that BS 25999 is now one of the recognized standards for US Department of Homeland Security’s Voluntary Private Sector Preparedness Accreditation and Certification Program. The other standards are NFPA 1600 and ASIS SPC.1-2009. I’ve heard very few Forrester clients mention the latter as their standard.

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Business Continuity Is Back On The Agenda

Stephanie Balaouras

During the last 12 to 18 months, there have been a number of notable natural catastrophes and weather related events. Devastating earthquakes hit Haiti, Chile, China, New Zealand, and Japan. Monsoon floods killed thousands in Pakistan, and a series of floods forced the evacuation of thousands from Queensland. And of course, there was the completely unusual, when for example, ash from the erupting Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland forced the shutdown of much of Western Europe’s airspace. These high profile events, together with greater awareness and increased regulation, have renewed interest in improving business continuity and disaster recovery preparedness. Last quarter, I published a report on this trend: Business Continuity And Disaster Recovery Are Top IT Priorities For 2010 And 2011.

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Watson Beats Jeopardy Champions: How Can You Capitalize On This In Risk And Fraud Management?

Andras Cser

IBM's Watson (natural language processing, deduction, AI, inference and statistical modeling all served by a massively parallel POWER7 array of computers with a total of 2880 processors with 15TB RAM) beat the greatest Jeopardy players in three rounds over the past 3 days — and the matches weren't even close. Watson has shocked us, and now it's time to think: What's in it for the security professional?

The connection is easy to see. The complexity, amount of unstructured background information, and the real-time need to make decisions.

Forrester predicts that the same levels of Watson's sophistication will appear in pattern recognition in fraud management and data protection. If Watson can answer a Jeopardy riddle in real time, it will certainly be able to find patterns of data loss, clustering security incidents, and events, and find root causes of them. Mitigation and/or removal of those root causes will be easy, compared to identifying them . . .

The Lone Cry for Growth In Insurance?

Ellen Carney

Yee Hah! The worst recession since the Great Depression was declared officially over in June of 2009. We should be feeling great, since all things considered, the insurance industry fared pretty well when it came to how it emerged from that dark tunnel. But except for one notable role voice, insurers, unlike their banking peers, are still holding back from growing the business. How do we know? We took a look at nearly 5,000 inquiries that Forrester answered for insurers, bankers, and securities firms in the wake of failure of Lehman Brothers to just after this May’s Flash Crash.

What was on the minds of insurers during these six quarters? For starters, insurers:

  • Asked more questions than their financial services peers. Of the three segments we looked at, insurers asked half of the inquiries we fielded—2,500 versus nearly 1,600 and 600 for banks and securities firms, respectively.
  • Framed more than half of those questions around risk. Insurers didn’t veer away from what got them through the recession intact (indeed, from the very nature of their business)—managing risk. Even questions about application development strategies were framed as a risk question, with most insurers seeking validation that they were following in the well-worn grooves of others in insurance (and other industries) before them.
  • Posed too few questions about growing the business. Unlike their banking and securities siblings who asked questions about growing the business through new product launches, up-selling and cross-selling, or luring new customers away from competitors, insurers, with one big role-based exception, did notreflect that Q2 2009 economic inflection point.
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Crisis Communication, Business Continuity, And Risk Management

Chris McClean

I recently recorded a podcast with Stephanie Balaouras, discussing the potential for increased collaboration between crisis communication, business continuity, and risk management functions. The strategies that businesses implement to manage disasters can mean the difference between bankruptcy and resilience... and we unfortunately see reminders of this on an almost weekly basis.

As each disaster hits the news (BP’s oil spill in the Gulf Coast, the recent volcanic eruption over Iceland, the financial crisis, the H1N1 virus, the extreme weather that crippled Washington, DC this past winter, etc.), the overwhelmingly negative impacts that occur start to hit home. Fortunately, we are starting to see our clients turning more to their crisis communication, business continuity, and risk management teams to ensure that they are prepared for the worst.

There are many potential points of collaboration between these teams. . . from modeling critical business processes and assessing the business impact of incidents to executing effective remediation plans and conducting post-incident loss analysis. Recently, I’ve also seen companies that talk about starting from scratch with a risk management function, although they have already done a substantial amount of relevant work for their business continuity function.

Of course, while there are some good trends that point to increased cooperation, there are still many areas for further improvement for every company. In fact, our data shows it to be the rare case in which both internal and external crisis communication functions are handled well in the same plan, with one usually being much stronger and more of a focal point.

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Hathaway resigns … another one bites the dust

Khalid Kark

Khalid Kark

Hathaway joins a distinguished group of highly respected and accomplished people who have quit the position of Cybersecurity Czar. She wasn’t even the actual Cybersecurity Czar, she was just the acting one, but it appears even that was too much to take for her. She cited personal reasons for resigning, but media reports suggest a more plausible reason for resigning – frustration at “spinning her wheels” and not being able to accomplish anything. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it. Whether you are a Cybersecurity Czar or a CISO, the challenges for this position are very similar. 

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Is IT Risk Management Compatible With ERM?

Chris McClean

Chris McClean

Every month or so, news events (attacks on government sites, massive privacy breaches, etc.) provide a ‘wake-up call’... a proof point used by vendors and practitioners alike that protecting our national and corporate information assets has never been more critical. On occasion we even see these incidents yield promises of action, for example the anticipated appointment of a US Cybersecurity Czar, which my colleague Khalid Kark discusses here

But in spite of these warnings, my conversations with enterprise risk and IT risk professionals still reveal many disconnects, including that IT risks are not measured consistently with other enterprise risks. In addition, many IT risk professionals do not see their biggest risks showing up on the corporate risk register.

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