Poisonous Snakes, Sharp Knives, And Angry Natives: How Much Risk Can You Handle?

CIOs Know That Security Threats Can Strike At Any Time
CIOs Know That Security Threats Can Strike At Any Time

Ok CIO wannabe, we’re right in the middle of a global financial crisis and your IT budget has gotten slashed so much it looks like Freddie Krueger has come back and had his way with it. What are you going to do about your spending on security programs: cut ’em, hold the line, or spend more. Whoops – that was a trick question: all of the answers will get you in trouble.

What The Other Guys Are Doing

Before making any big spending decision, any self-respecting CIO will do what all leaders do – try to find out what the other guys are doing in the hopes that you can just copy them. Well, in this case you’ll be getting mixed signals.

A survey done by Information Week magazine revealed that 19% of CIOs are cutting their security spending. On top of that, only 27% of the surveyed CIOs are planning on increasing their security budgets – that leaves roughly 50% doing the same old thing.

Its starting to look as though the final remaining sacred cow of IT budgets, spending on securing the enterprise’s IT assets, has finally fallen under the budget trimming axe. This is an excellent opportunity to learn how to be a better CIO: cut too little and the company goes under, cut too much and the company may get sued when your defenses are breached.

What’s Worse: Poisonous Snakes or Sharp Knives?

Here’s another part of your CIO quiz: when your security budget comes under fire and you know that you’re not going to be able to save the whole platoon, who do you pick to live and who do you let die? Tough call eh? That Information Week CIO survey revealed that most CIOs have decided that any security program that deals with compliance in some way, shape, or form needs to be saved.

In the end, CIOs are finally starting to realize that an effective corporate IT security policy consists of just two things:

  • Managing Risk
  • Protecting Data

Don’t Forget About The Angry Natives –
How CIOs Prioritize

If the job was easy, then anyone could be a CIO. The CIOs who get it, those who understand what effective IT security is really trying to do, know that the first thing that they have to do is to determine the company’s overall appetite for risk. If the company has an appetite for a lot of risk, then the CIO can trim the IT security budget to the bone. Otherwise, cut with care!

Successful CIOs realize that the right way to go about setting up an IT security program is to start by realizing that you can’t protect everything to the same level and so you need to identify what IT assets are the most valuable to the company. Once you know this, you need to take the next step and estimate the likelihood that those assets might be lost.

Only after you have both of these pieces of information can a CIO have the IT team start to create security programs and put systems of controls in place to protect what needs to be protected. Although compliance programs are on everyone’s minds in these tough economic times, CIOs need to keep in mind that such programs are not always in line with security best practices.

Final Thoughts

If you want to have any hope of ever being a successful CIO, you’ve got to learn to be able to make the tough calls when it comes to funding corporate IT security programs. Although putting measures in place in order to make sure that the company remains complaint with regulations is good, it’s not nearly enough.

Taking the time to properly value your corporate IT assets and identifying what kinds of risks this data faces is the critical first step that too many CIOs skip over. Take the time to do this correctly and you’ll be well positioned to deal with poisonous snakes, sharp knives, and angry natives. Now if we could just find some way to deal with those pesky rampaging elephants…

What do you think should be a CIO’s #1 security concern: remaining in compliance or dealing with the security threat that comes from outside?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Ok all you CIOs wannabes, guess what one of your first problems is going to be once you assume control of the IT department? No, not that innovation thing. Nor will it be finding new ways to cut costs. Somewhat amazingly considering that we are living in the enlightened 21st Century — you will need to find more women


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