What's particularly alarming is that the desire for security compliance doesn't sync with the effort businesses put toward training and education, both within the IT department and throughout the workforce. Monitoring user compliance ranked as the No. 1 security priority in a survey of 966 U.S. companies polled by InformationWeek Research and Accenture. Security policies typically define who has access to data, how it can be used, where customer data can and can't be stored, any potential legislation the company is subject to if the data is breached, and whether data must be encrypted.
Still, more than half of U.S. companies surveyed say security technology and policy training would have no impact on alleviating employee-based breaches, a sentiment shared by more than half of the companies surveyed in Europe and China as part of the InformationWeek 2006 Global Security Survey. In fact, most companies surveyed worldwide admit they don't train their employees on information security policies and procedures on a regular basis, preferring instead to deliver ad hoc training.
In the United States, the CIO typically works with IT directors, managers, and department heads to set security policies, according to InformationWeek Research. That's different from Europe, where the president or CEO is typically involved in setting security policies along with IT management and security administrators. But while a range of input can benefit security policies, it also results in a long development process, which is why policies don't always materialize ahead of problems.
At Brown University, IT security director Connie Sadler is working with the general counsel, internal auditors, faculty, staff, and others to hammer out a policy to manage the downloading and storing of confidential information on laptops and other devices. But since this proposed policy will have a major impact on how people throughout the university work, it exists only as unenforceable guidelines. "Part of the reason we wrote this was to protect our technical staff," Sadler says, adding that she hopes to see these guidelines become policy within a year. "We ask the technical staff to make decisions about protecting data and decide who should access this data, but it's not their job. That's up to senior management."
Given the increase in the number of data breaches, businesses can't allow security polices to become hampered by ambivalence and red tape. Next time, it could be your job on the line.