Bottom line: With many IT budgets under scrutiny, cybersecurity teams are expected to do more with less, prioritizing spending that delivers the greatest ROI while avoiding the top five mistakes that threaten their infrastructures.
In a rush to reduce budgets and spending, cybersecurity teams and the CISOs that lead them need to avoid the mistakes that can thwart cybersecurity strategies and impede infrastructure performance. Cutting budgets too deep and too fast can turn into an epic fail from a cybersecurity standpoint. What I’ve found is that CIOs are making decisions based on budget requirements, while CISOs are looking out for the security of the company.
Based on their ongoing interviews with CIOs, Gartner is predicting an 8% decline in worldwide IT spending this year. Cybersecurity projects that don’t deliver a solid ROI are already out of IT budgets. Prioritizing and trimming projects to achieve tighter cost optimization is how CIOs and their teams are reshaping their budgets today. CIOs say the goal is to keep the business running as secure as possible, not attain perfect cybersecurity.
Despite the unsettling, rapid rise of cyber-attacks, including a 667% increase in spear-fishing email attacks related to Covid-19 since February alone, CIOs often trim IT budgets starting with cybersecurity first. The current economic downturn is making it clear that cybersecurity is more of a business strategy than an IT one, as spending gets prioritized by the best-to-worst business case.
Five Mistakes No CISO Wants To Make
One of the hardest parts of a CISO’s job is deciding which projects will continue to be funded and who will be responsible for leading them, so they deliver value. It gets challenging fast when budgets are shrinking and competitors actively recruit the most talented team members. Those factors taken together create the perfect conditions for the five mistakes that threaten the infrastructure cybersecurity and resilience of any business.
The five mistakes no CISO wants to make include the following:
1. No accountability for the crown jewels for the company. Privileged access credentials continue to be the primary target for cyber-attackers. However, many companies just went through a challenging sprint to make sure all employees have secure remote access to enable Covid-19 work-from-home policies. Research by Centrify reveals that 41% of UK businesses aren’t treating outsourced IT and other third parties likely to have some form of privileged access as an equal security concern.
And while a password vault helps rotate credentials, it still relies on shared passwords and doesn’t provide any accountability to know who is doing what with them. That accountability can be introduced by moving to an identity-centric approach where privileged users log in as themselves and are authenticated using existing identity infrastructures (such as Microsoft Active Directory) to federate access with Centrify’s Privileged Access Service.
CISOs and their teams also continue to discount or underestimate the importance of privileged non-human identities that far outweigh human users as a cybersecurity risk in today’s business world. What’s needed is an enterprise-wide approach enabling machines to protect themselves across any network or infrastructure configuration.
2. Cybersecurity budgets aren’t revised for current threatscapes. Even though many organizations are still in the midst of extensive digital transformation, their budgets often reflect the threatscape from years ago. This gives hackers the green light to get past antiquated legacy security systems to access and leverage modern infrastructures, such as cloud and DevOps. IT security leaders make this even more challenging by not listening to the front-line cybersecurity teams and security analysts who can see the patterns of breach attempts in data they review every day. In dysfunctional organizations, the analyst teams are ignored and cybersecurity suffers.
3. Conflicts of interest when CISOs report to CIOs and the IT budget wins. This happens in organizations that get hacked because the cybersecurity teams aren’t getting the tools and support they need to do their jobs. With IT budgets facing the greatest scrutiny they’ve seen in a decade, CISOs need to have their budget to defend. Otherwise, too many cybersecurity projects will be cut without thinking of the business implications of each. The bottom line is CISOs need to report to the CEO and have the autonomy to plan, direct, evaluate and course-correct their strategies with their teams.
4. The mistake of thinking cloud platforms’ Identity and Access Management (IAM) tools can secure an enterprise on their own. Cloud providers offer a baseline level of IAM support that might be able to secure workloads in their clouds adequately but is insufficient to protect a multi-cloud, hybrid enterprise. IT leaders need to consider how they can better protect the complex areas of IAM and Privileged Access Management (PAM) with these significant expansions of the enterprise IT estate.
Native IAM capabilities offered by AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud and other vendors provide enough functionality to help an organization get up and running to control access in their respective homogeneous cloud environments. However, often they lack the scale to fully address the more challenging, complex areas of IAM and PAM in hybrid or multi-cloud environments. Please see the post, The Truth About Privileged Access Security On AWS and Other Public Clouds, for additional information.
5. Exposing their organizations to a greater risk of breach and privileged access credential abuse by staying with legacy password vaults too long. Given the severity, speed and scale of breach attempts, IT leaders need to re-think their vault strategy and make them more identity-centric. Just as organizations have spent the past 5 – 10 years modernizing their infrastructure, they must also consider how to modernize how they secure access to it. More modern solutions can enforce a least privilege approach based on Zero Trust principles that grant just enough, just-in-time access to reduce risk. Forward-thinking organizations will be more difficult to breach by reorienting PAM from being vault-centric to identity-centric.
Decisions about what stays or goes in cybersecurity budgets this year could easily make or break careers for CISOs and CIOs alike. Consider the five mistakes mentioned here and the leading cause of breaches – privileged access abuse. Prioritizing privileged access management for human and machine identities addresses the most vulnerable threat vector for any business. Taking a more modern approach that is aligned to digital transformation priorities can often allow organizations to leverage their existing solutions to reduce risk and costs at the same time.