Information Security: More Than Just a Checkbox
February 25, 2023
By Aimann Rasheed
Information security is a critical and strategic issue for companies of all sizes and is pervasive to all industries, but the impetus to commit qualified resources to effectively manage it is typically inhibited by an assumed lack of return on investment (“ROI”).
With the prolific amount of personal and sensitive information being collected and stored by organizations, the potential for data breaches and security incidents is exponentially greater than ever, but security executives, such as chief information security officers (”CISO”) and chief security officers (”CSO”), should focus not only on protection and privacy, but also on how information security can enable business growth and efficiency.
Unfortunately, the success of risk management can sometimes be overlooked because the full extent of remediation and addressing the breach is not fully appreciated by the public. Therefore, it is important to understand how to leverage security to realize the tangible benefits to your organization. Here are some ways organizations can leverage information security to their advantage:
Better Decision Making
Information security is also about collecting and analyzing data in a secure manner. Companies can gain valuable insights to help inform and foster more strategic decision making. This data gathering can include identifying trends and patterns in customer behavior, as well as identifying opportunities for new products and services. Proper information security can also take care of anonymization and personally identifiable information (“PII”) scrubbing, which is especially important in preserving anonymity without sacrificing the ability to make important observations. It also means proactively identifying anomalous behavior patterns before they turn into bigger issues.
Employees in large organizations are rightfully anxious about interacting with sensitive data even when there is great potential benefit to the organization. Good information security means that employees can feel more confident accessing data securely to make smarter business decisions without compromising sensitive customer information. Seamless data governance processes can take the guesswork out of interacting with this data to provide better alignment with business strategy.
According to IBM’s “Cost of Data Breach Report 2022”, the average cost of a data breach for a company in the United States is $9.44 million.
By understanding the types of threats that companies may be facing and the potential impact of a security incident, companies can take steps to mitigate or prevent those risks entirely.
This can include implementing technical security controls such as firewalls, intrusion detection systems, multi-factor authentication and encryption. Additionally, fortifying a company’s information security program with formalizing policies and procedures, maturing incident response plans and performing regular security training and education for employees can significantly improve the company’s security posture. Regular security assessments and good governance are the cornerstone of financial stability for every company that relies on technology to power its products, services and operations.
By being able to demonstrate strong information security practices, companies can gain a competitive edge in the marketplace. Demonstrating information assurance through recognized security frameworks such as National Institute of Standards and Technology Cybersecurity Framework (“NIST CSF”) or certifications such as ISO 27001 or achieving assertions through Service Organization Control (“SOC”) Type 2 allows companies to explicitly verify to customers and partners that the company has implemented robust security controls and is serious about information security. Additionally, companies can use information security as a differentiator in marketing and sales efforts, highlighting their commitment to protecting customer data as a key selling point.
It is not uncommon for industries to have specific regulations and standards for information security. Consider the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (“HIPAA”) for healthcare, Payment Card Industry – Data Security Standard (“PCI-DSS”) for retail and SOC 2 for cloud-based services providers as a few examples. The organizations that adhere to these regulations can certainly avoid costly fines and penalties, but sometimes there are also opportunities to conform to higher standards to win business. Larger prospective customers and integration partners often seek these more stringent compliance standards for added assurances, even if they are not mandated by law or regulation.
Improved Customer Trust
Okta’s “The State of Digital Trust” study found that 88% of customers wouldn’t use services or purchase products from an organization they distrust, while more than a third (39%) had lost trust in a company due to a data breach or misuse of data they heard about.
Information security is not just about protecting against threats; it is also about building trust and loyalty with customers. By showing customers that their data is being protected, companies can build trust and loyalty. This can include being transparent about information security practices, such as how data is collected, stored and shared, as well as providing customers with tools and resources to help them protect their own data. Companies can also use information security to differentiate themselves from competitors, as customers may choose to do business with companies that they perceive as being more trustworthy.
“In the post-pandemic era, the role of risk management within digital transformation today is changing risks into opportunities,” said Jason Juliano, former CISO and current Director of Digital Transformation at EisnerAmper. “Risk management is more than just protecting against threats; it is also about identifying opportunities and managing strategic risks to drive growth and innovation.”
Information security is critical for companies in any industry because it protects sensitive information such as client data, financial information and other non-public data. With so many new and powerful ways to implement security available, digital transformation teams can implement best practices that don’t merely protect against threats, but also improve the bottom line.