Philip Cao

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Should CISOs Expand Their Portfolios?

3 min read

Frederick SchollCISOs have traditionally focused on the triad of “Confidentiality, Integrity and Availability.” Recently, emphasis has been placed on confidentiality, hackers and zero-day attacks. However, industry trends now require that focus to broaden to all business information risks within organizations.

Since information is a key part of almost all business transactions, information risks are becoming pervasive. The trends I want to highlight include increased need for Security departments to partner with business colleagues to understand risks from their point of view, and increased importance of integrity and availability.

In my mind, integrity issues go back to the ChoicePoint data breach in 2005. This breach did not result from a zero-day attack. It was carried out by fraudulent customers using fake accounts. This falls under the “data integrity” mandate. At the time, many would have thought that this breach was outside of the scope of information security. But this needs to change today.

Such incidents have taken off in recent years. Fake news incidents have regularly made headlines. The potential effects of fake information on SEO results also have been highlighted. Consider the reports of identity “theft” using synthetic identities. Or the recent scandal at Kobe Steel over the internal falsification of quality data.

After the Yahoo breaches cost that company US $300M, cybersecurity assessments have become a more important part of M&A transactions. This type of assessment has to mitigate business risk. Is the firm’s risk posture what it says it is? Class action lawsuitsin the state of Michigan for faulty software algorithms bring up another information business risk. Software development errors may have real human life consequences as well as business consequences.

In the recent volatile financial market, several investment firms suffered outages, even in our era of scalable, virtualized application architectures. Ransomware attacks last year led to real money being lost from victims, not from ransoms, but from outages. The largest ever DDoS attack recently was reported. These attacks are likely to continue to be common.

This is still an important issue, but the diversity of incidents is increasing. An ex-Expedia employee pleaded guilty to stealingcompany information to facilitate his insider trading of company stock. Better keyless entry systems now facilitate faster theft by car thieves, not just theft of information. In 2016, steelmaker ThyssenKrupp lost trade secrets to cyber criminals. A large retailer recently was hit with a $27 million fine for stealing a small contractor’s intellectual property. Instead of just stealing IDs, criminals are now stealing whole systems and the intellectual property that goes along with those systems.

These incidents highlight newer ways to misuse information resources and adversely affect a business. More longstanding hacker attacks using technology are not going away; traditional technology controls are still needed to mitigate these risks and significant progress has been made in doing so. But these newer incidents highlight threats in which the misuse case and consequences are highly entwined with the business. To find these risks, CISOs will need, more than ever, to understand the business they are protecting and the risks that are seen by senior management. Security controls will need to be more integrated in business operations to be effective.

A recent presentation by Facebook CISO Alex Stamos also highlighted these issues. In his talk, Stamos distinguishes between two components of technology risk: traditional InfoSec and “abuse.” He defines abuse as “technically correct use of a technology to cause harm.” In his view, the abuse category of risk is much broader than the traditional InfoSec concerns. Some of his solutions to better manage the abuse category of risk include broadening the focus of security practitioners and increasing empathy toward business users and leaders.

My own conclusion is: if the issue involves company information, and misuse can affect the company’s risk posture, then CISOs need to play an active role in mitigating that risk.

Frederick Scholl, Ph.D., CISM

[ISACA Now Blog]

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