Security and compliance initiatives are often seen as diametrically opposed to business efficiency when organizations are forming their IT strategy. Complying with government regulations and the highest industry security standards usually requires the implementation of strict limits on who has access to data and under what circumstances, which can often hinder employees from completing tasks in the most direct way.
When business leaders have to choose between security/compliance and efficiency, guess which one usually wins the day? Whereas efficiency contributes directly to the organization’s bottom line, it's harder to calculate the cost-benefit ratio of security and compliance investments.
Some organizations might choose to prioritize security over everything else, but this hypervigilance makes it difficult to function. If your organization is so locked down that you can’t achieve your primary business objectives, what are you actually protecting?
Security and compliance versus efficiency is a fundamentally misguided mentality. In the age of digital transformation, these principles are more simpatico than you might think. Ignoring security in favor of short-term efficiency increases the risk of a successful cyberattack, which can bring operations to a halt.
Instead, organizations should weave security and compliance best practices into their IT processes from the ground up. Doing so can actually help the organization run more smoothly and contribute positively to the bottom line.
Business processes and systems are more digital and integrated than ever. This interconnectedness offers potential for greater reach across geographic barriers but also creates additional risk.
Threat actors have an increasing number of vectors from which to launch attacks, as every external vendor, application, or cloud-hosted tool can potentially be used as an open door into an organization. If organizations don’t have a full, detailed view of their processes and technology portfolios, they leave themselves vulnerable to a catastrophic data breach.
But security teams also have more data at their disposal than ever before to identify vulnerabilities in their digital infrastructure. It’s not possible to lock down every single vector of attack, but you can minimize your risk surface and create an IT strategy that includes a rapid, effective disaster recovery workflow.
You can’t give every potential vulnerability the same level of attention. There need to be specific scoring criteria that enable your IT department to prioritize which risks are the greatest threat to the organization. Does the issue potentially expose the data of a large number of personnel or customers? To what types of information (financial, etc.) could a threat actor gain access? What would be the immediate effect on company operations if a data breach occurred? In answering these questions, you can create an IT strategy that elevates potential issues appropriately and clarifies what's most important.
Clearing out the "noise" in the workflow is important, too. Functions like resetting passwords, endpoint security, security training for mainstream employees, etc., can often be automated, freeing up your personnel to address issues that require a hands-on approach.
And don’t underestimate the positive effect improving operational efficiency can have on your security posture. As long as security and compliance concerns are baked into these initiatives, building smoother workflows, warehousing your data, and eliminating technology redundancies can make your organization’s security more manageable by getting rid of unnecessary complications.
Being able to install, update, and configure employee devices and profiles remotely in the onboarding and procurement process enables the implementation of effective security measures from the start. By taking this out of the user's hands, IT enables personnel to focus on their actual job, and the IT team can avoid the whack-a-mole game of fixing user errors. In addition, the standardization of technology and processes helps each part of the organization interface more effectively with others, as they use compatible technologies and workflows.
This is a by-product of developments in the user experience field, as the simplicity and intuitive design desired by consumers are not that different from what non-IT employees want. While Elizabeth in IT might enjoy tinkering with a Linux distro she can customize to her own specifications, Simon in HR just wants to be able to do his job as soon as his PC boots up.
User access controls (UAC) and permissions bear discussion here, as Least Privilege and Zero Trust have become the targets to hit for IT departments and industries with high security and compliance standards. One key to reducing your attack surface is denying access to assets by default and provisioning them such that they can only be accessed by specific users at specific times for specific purposes. Another key is requiring multiple levels of approval for the elevation of privileges in an application.
At first glance, it would seem like this would inevitably result in lowered efficiency, but consider how much faster the process of auditing and troubleshooting can be when each time a privileged asset is used, there is a detailed log of who accessed the asset when and why.
Many of the problems in implementing security and compliance measures result from seeing security as something to get out of the way so you can get back to business. A healthier IT strategy is to treat security and adherence to regulations as an additional value driver of your products and services. If security best practices are baked into your dev process or integrated into your workflows from the start, then clients and investors can be assured that company operations and the effectiveness of your products won’t be tanked by a cyberattack or regulatory audit.
The constantly evolving nature of the threat landscape demands a flexible, agile, iterative approach to security. Your IT strategy needs to not only account for current threats and government regulations but also provide effective workflows for how to adapt to new requirements. While this requires a great deal of planning and resources, being ready when the landscape shifts will ensure that your company can continue operations without a hiccup. This continuity and consistency is something that can provide a great deal of value to your customers.
If security is accounted for iteratively, throughout the process, it’s no longer a box to check, a hurdle to jump, or a stage in development. It becomes a business goal just like any other. When developing a new product, you don’t think about the purpose of the product as part of a development phase—you think of it every step of the way. Security and compliance should be approached the same way in your IT strategy, and in doing so, your products and services will not only be more secure but also more efficient and effective.
We talk about this a lot when discussing digital transformation, but it applies to security and compliance, too. The success of major technology initiatives requires collaboration between the IT and business wings of a company. When data security requirements are directly tied to business goals, IT is able to get the budget and resources they need because technology becomes an asset rather than a necessary evil.
At Vudu, we are technology wizards who want to bring IT magic to your business and achieve supernatural results. Want to learn more about the benefits of a security and compliance focused IT strategy? Tell us more about your goals.