Archive for August 2010

The Important Links between Culture, Risk Management, and Business Performance

August 24, 2010

Culture—often a microculture within a specific business unit or location or function—is a critical underlying component of the likelihood and severity of business misconduct. Corporate Executive Board research finds that companies with healthier cultures realize numerous benefits:

  • Their employees are two-thirds less likely to see misconduct and much more likely to report misconduct and operational failures.
  • Managers that exhibit corporate values can improve employees’ performance by 12%.
  • Their 10-year total shareholder return outperformed peers’ by 16 percentage points.

Unfortunately, three years of highly detailed data from nearly 500,000 employees at over 100 companies show that company executives have consistently rosier assessments of the health of their culture than non-executive staff. The research shows that nearly 60% of employees do not share bad news and negative feedback because they fear it will negatively impact their careers. Furthermore, employees would forego $1m to $10m in company earnings in order to avoid sharing bad news. Although these results were not specific to information security concerns, IREC believes they can be extrapolated to the security arena.

Culture, properly understood, is a risk control, and a control that impacts much more than just compliance. Making this intellectual leap helps companies understand how best to treat culture: as a measurable phenomenon. That is, critical cultural competencies should be defined, tested, and actively fostered. Companies should start by following these three simple guidelines:

  • Equip managers to deal decisively and consistently with instances of misconduct or unethical behavior;
  • Show the whole employee population—using real instances from the company—how the company deals with misconduct; and
  • Close the loop with employees who report misconduct, so they know that appropriate actions were taken.

Related Research:
Managing the Threat from Malicious Insiders
Preventing Employee Misconduct
Preventing Data Leakage

More Thoughts on Blocking Access to Social Networking Sites

August 5, 2010

A few days ago we discussed some of the early findings from our recent survey on social media behavior among end users (part of our end-user awareness service).  Expanding on that insight, we note that companies that are blocking access to social media are not seeing less employee usage of social media sites like Facebook. The usage still takes place, the usage is just as likely to concern workplace issues, and the usage is just as likely to take place during work hours—users either get around technical blockades, or they use their mobile devices.

What’s a CISO to do?

While accessing social media sites through the corporate infrastructure brings some risks around malware and the like, these are not that different in kind or in magnitude than general internet access. The main social media risks—data leakage and reputation damage—remain pretty much unchanged however they are accessed. IREC believes that—regulations permitting—organizations should open up social media access. The harm is low, and the benefits are large:

  • First, you help shed Security’s image as the function that says “No.”
  • Second, you will enhance collaborative opportunities in your organization.
  • Third, and most interesting from Security’s point of view, you can monitor the traffic to the social networking sites.  This allows you to monitor for outgoing data, understand how users are using these sites, and identify individuals or groups of users for targeted social media awareness efforts. Why drive usage underground where you can’t do this?

For those who are reconsidering their social media access policy, here are some data we have collected on this topic. We have been asking our members about their social media access posture for more than two years now, sometimes in slightly different ways and across different venues. In all we have about 15 data sets, with an average N of about 20.  We narrowed down the responses to three categories: those who pretty much allow everything, those who pretty much block everything except for one-off exceptions for business purposes, and those in the middle who allow access for most users, but have significant limitations or focused technical controls in place. The data are a bit noisy, but we think the trend over the last year towards allowing at least controlled access is pretty clear.

Percentage of companies blocking social media site access

Click for larger

IREC members may explore further with these resources:

Note: to find our complete collection of data sets like these covering all security topics, visit our Peer Polling Results Browser.

To learn more about our research in the social media space, attend our upcoming webinar Measuring End-User Social Media Behavior to Inform Policy Decisions on August 19. In addition we will discuss the social media results in more detail during the ongoing Annual Executive Retreat series.

Protecting social media risks

August 2, 2010

Our recently conducted survey on social media policy and usage shows that of the over 17,000 end users surveyed at Fortune 500 companies, nearly 70% are using social media. Of these total end users we found:

  • 35% percent are accessing the social media on their mobile device, regardless of whether social media sites are blocked by the company
  • 15% are engaging in risky activities that are primarily work related such posting company or client information on consumer collaboration sites like Google docs
  • Usage of social media for these high risk activities is higher in the non-management and middle management ranks
  • Perception of social media risk is different from traditional end user IT risks like leaving laptop unsecured or sharing password

So what are the implications of these findings for the CISOs inundated with social media requests and looking for ways to mitigate social media risk?

Implication #1: Given a third of end users access social media through personal mobile devices at work, traditional blocking approaches will not work.

Implication #2: End user awareness is a key tool to manage end user risk and it should be specially targeted on end users using social media at work.

Implication #3: Unlike traditional IT risk awareness where senior management is usually least aware, social media training should focus on rank and file.

Implication #4: Finally, given that end users sometimes use the same social media space for both and personal work related activities; training needs to be more nuanced, and focus on both professional and personal usage of social media.

Members can learn more about our research in the social media space at our webinar Measuring End-User Social Media Behavior to Inform Policy Decisions on August 19. In addition we will discuss the social media results in more detail during the ongoing Annual Executive Retreat series.