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Secure Clouds Authors: Liz McMillan, Peter Silva, Zakia Bouachraoui, Pat Romanski, Terry Ray

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Information Security Strategy

Have you ever Googled "Information Security Strategy?"

Security Track at Cloud Expo

Have you ever Googled "information security strategy“?

Try it yourself and see the results.

What you get is bunch of mixed-up terminology, most of it does not (should not) fit into what information security strategy really is (or should be). Major misconception is this – information strategy is risk treatment (mitigation) plan. In some way it is true, but let’s consider some major limitations with that approach.

According to wiki, „strategy“ is „a plan of action designed to achieve a particular goal.“ So you have a business strategy, which is a plan of action designed to achieve business goals. You have IT (development) strategy, which is a plan of action designed to achieve IT goals, that support achievement of business goals (or more precisely – that are aligned to business goals – strategy).  It should be common sense that therefore information security strategy should be some kind of plan of action designated to achieve a particular information security objectives (goals), that as well support business objectives / strategy (profit / market share increase etc).

But, have you ever seen such a document or better, have you ever written one? What should be in it? Who should prepare such a document and who should approve it?

ISO 27001/2 does not containt „information security strategy“ term. You can not find it there. There is information security policy, which by it’s ISO 27001 defined structure has many similarities with security strategy.

But should there even be such a document? Isn’t IT strategy enough? It is not enough. Apsolutely not.There should be information security strategy document approved by board (top management). And the reasons are many:

  • It is information security that, as well as I(C)T, supports business,
  • It is information security that, if not managed properly, can generate significant lossess and lead to bankruptcy,
  • It is information security that therefore has an immense impact on achievement of business goals (strategy),
  • It is information security that is becomming an integral part of business, not some standalone feature.

You get it. Information security deserves to have a strategy. Not only it deserves, it must have one.

Information security strategy document can have the following elements:

  • Definition of information security taking into consideration legal, regulatory and business information security requirements,
  • Explanation why is information security so important / how information security supports achievement of business objectives (business strategy)
  • Benefits of effective information security management system
  • Information security objectives (goals) linked to business objectives
  • Vision of information security / information security position in organisation in 3 or more years
  • Description of current information security position ( regarding to vision)
  • Description of how information security objectives will be achieved (what information security programm will look like) / this is a place to define all important information security „tentacles“ – this is your plan of action designed to achieve information security objectives
  • Brief description of overall information security risk position / brief risk assessment results (what are the major risks?)
  • Risk management strategy (risk tolerance)
  • Description of known problems and issues regarding information security management (what are current obstacles to effective information security management?)
  • Description of trends in information security and how will they impact the organisation (and how the organisation should adjust itself)
  • Information security outsourcing strategy (what should be kept in, what should be outsourced)
  • Information security awareness and training strategy
  • Decomposition of informatin security (document hierarchy)

Obviously, this is something CISO should take care of.  And I’m sure that you agree that this is something different than ordinary risk treatment plan (although the main premise is the same – how to achieve goals / how to minimise risk).

Lack of documented information security strategy may be just the thing that drags all your efforts down.

Read the original blog entry...