Data security – is psychology more important than technology?

We had a discussion with a prospect for a DLP (data loss prevention) system) that started with discussing the pros and cons of various DLP solutions (Verdasys, Mcafee DLP, Websense, Fidelis Security) and finished with a drill-down into how they can build a business case to acquire and implement data security technology. After a very interesting session – the CIO asked me – “So why did you start with technology? we should have started with the business case?”  I replied – “Got your attention, didn’t I!”

Talking with clients we stress threat modeling and analysis and doing quantitative risk analysis but I believe that psychology may be more important than the technology. This is for several reasons:

  • Preventing data breach events is an admission of weakness. Data loss is caused by an attack launched from inside the company (whether by a trusted insider, business partner or malicious hacker). attacks that exploit internal vulnerabilities like the new Sharepoint server that the marketing team installed last week without consulting with the IT security team.  Who wants to spend  money on something when the first step is admitting that you’re vulnerable and that your existing security systems, policies and procedures do not meet business requirements?
  • The need for instant gratification. Need to keep food fresh? – buy a fridge, Want music, voice, SMS, Web and mail? – buy an iPhone, Want IT security – buy a UTM appliance from Checkpoint or Cisco, want a CRM system – get salesforce.com, need a new enterprise software system – outsource to India. This is related to two other needs I think:
  • The need to keep things simple and
  • The need to walk on the safe side, not on the wild side.   Who wants to spend 6 figures on a DLP solution that requires a risk assessment from someone who isn’t your accountant,  a complex policy implementation by people who need to learn your business, integration with internal procedures and processes with employees who could care less, and buyin from a CEO who is scrappling for survival with the board during the biggest financial crisis in 80 years?

I will talk about how to sell DLP through the psychology and not the technology in an upcoming post. Stay tuned.

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