With no accepted common concept about what constitutes risk management in IT, management strategies are a challenge, argues a former agency CISO.
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In a practical as opposed to a theoretical sense, there are pros and cons to the current focus on risk management, said Robert Bigman, who retired as the CIA’s chief information security officer earlier this year and is now CEO of his own consulting firm, 2BSecure LLC.
“I think it has a lot of appeal in government for agencies getting a handle on what they have, though not necessarily where the risk is,” he said. “Most agency CIOs don’t know what they have and what’s connected to what, so in that sense the risk management process is good, not just from an asset management perspective but also for security.”
However, there is no accepted common concept behind what risk management means in the IT environment, Bigman added. Management strategies are good when you have a finite set of variables and know what you are dealing with, but that’s not typical for IT security.
Furthermore, most agencies must take risks every day in order to do their jobs — risks that a risk management strategy will tell you not to take. In that case, he said, what is likely to take precedence?
“Because of the event-by-event, case-by-case state agencies are in, security is a day-by-day, tactical response program, and what we’re doing is running around putting out fires and trying to keep the mission going,” he said. “This notion that you can automate this and interactively understand your risk on a daily basis is a whim, a farce.”
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