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How to justify information security spending

By Danny Lieberman
March 17, 2005 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Is FUD dead?
At a recent seminar on information security management, I heard that FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) is dead, that ROI is dead and that the insurance model is dead. Information security needs to give business value.
This sounds like a terrific idea, but the lecturer was unable to provide a concrete example similar to purchasing justifications that companies use like: "Yes, we will buy this machine because it makes twice as many diamond rings per hour and we'll be able corner the Valentine's Day market in North America."
The seminar left me with a feeling of frustration of a reality far removed from management theory. Intel co-founder Andy Grove said, "A little fear in an organization is a good thing." So FUD apparently isn't dead.
This article will help guide Computerworld readers from a current state of reaction and acquisition to a target state of business value and justification for information security, providing both food for thought and practical ideas for implementation.
Most companies don't run their information security operation like a business unit with a tightly focused strategy on customers, market and competitors. Most security professionals and software developers don't have quotas and compensation for making their numbers.
Information security works on a cycle of threat, reaction and acquisition. It needs to operate continuously and proactively within a well-defined, standards-based threat model that can be benchmarked against the best players in your industry, just like companies benchmark earnings per share.
In his classic Harvard Business Review article, What Is Strategy?, Michael Porter writes how "the essence of strategy is what not to choose ... a strong completive position requires clear tradeoffs and choices and a system of interlocking business activities that fit well and sustain the business." The security of your business information also requires a strategy.
Improvement requires a well-defined strategy and performance measures, and improvement is what our customers want. With measurable improvement, we'll be able to prove the business value of spending on security.
If you think I'm whistling Dixie, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Is your digital asset protection spending driven by regulation?

  2. Are Gartner white papers a key input for purchasing decisions?

  3. Does the information security group work without security win/loss scores?

  4. Does your chief security officer meet three to five vendors each day?

  5. Is your purchasing cycle for a new product longer than six months?

  6. Is your team short on head count, and not implementing new technologies?

  7. Has the chief technology officer never personally sold or installed any of the company's products?

If you answered yes to four of the seven questions, then you definitely need a business


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