Cybersecurity and IT Strategy: 5 Tips to Create an Integration Roadmap

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Integrating IT and cybersecurity strategy is easier than you think.

Cybersecurity is a critical pillar in your company’s ability to operate. That said, many firms still don’t have tight integration between their cybersecurity and IT strategies. Businesses that approach these strategies as separate, siloed tasks may be more susceptible to attack.

Integration is less about blending the two departments and more about changing structures. It’s also a harmonizing process that helps with embedding controls. If your company hasn’t integrated cybersecurity and IT strategies, it can be difficult to know where to start. 

Here we’ll provide you with a sure-fire way to integrate cybersecurity and IT. That’ll reduce operational costs and allow your business to resist attacks better. First, let’s delve into why having an integrated strategy is so important?

Why Is It Important to Integrate Cybersecurity with IT?

Cybersecurity and IT have different objectives. That means security policies are at risk. When each opts to develop their own strategy, internal conflict, dysfunction, and security gaps occur. That said, cybersecurity’s integration allows a company to become more effective. That also helps to specify one unified security policy for everyone to follow. 

If two teams are working against each other, your business loses money and morale. You may also find the resulting staff leave and malware attacks are more damaging. Companies enjoying success from integrated departments reduce their overheads and improve their market presence.

Why do companies have this disconnect in the first place?

Why the Disconnect? 

The IT department is responsible for streamlining processes through technology. Cybersecurity teams, on the other hand, are responsible for mitigating the risks to your technology. In a sense, IT teams may say Yes to a project while the cybersecurity teams are likely to say No

Even though neither department necessarily starts off seeing the other as an adversary, hostility can creep in. Each will retreat into their own silos and become fixated on winning this internal conflict. 

No company is ever completely safe and a balanced approach is a must; both teams are right and wrong at the same time. This causes underlying tension from the outset without many realizing why. That said following the right roadmap and reducing ambiguity on the discomfort’s cause will help.

Let’s immediately consider the roadmap to integration and the 5 tips you can follow to ensure a clear way ahead. 

Roadmap to Integration

Roadmaps enable businesses to identify the current situation in a company’s segment or as a whole and define a way forward. A consultation process starts the process between teams and managers. Benchmarking the business and adding milestones also helps assess the company’s success at sticking to the plan. 

The roadmap paves the way to a project framework, action plan, and Gantt chart. Now you have an implementable project and can assign a project manager to it. To create a coherent cybersecurity and IT strategy, follow these 5 tips.

1. Empower Security Leadership

The chief information officer (CIO) is almost always higher up the enterprise hierarchy than the chief information security officer (CISO). The CISO often reports to the CIO. This isn’t necessarily wrong, but it could suppress the security role’s voice. That’s something you should keep in mind when planning and applying your strategy. 

A Ponemon Institute survey found companies with an ambiguous reporting model have a weak CISO. This limits CISOs to technical solutions only. A more holistic, business-oriented approach to problem-solving helps empower employees

The CISO must ideally report to the CEO, CIO, and the board. That’s to enable better integration and management practices. The CISO must also help define IT goals. If the CISO is reporting to a CIO, he only needs to define a meeting attendance policy. Attendance would become mandatory at all IT strategy meetings. That way, IT won’t overlook security goals when they hold their meetings.

2. Obtain Executive Champions

Any initiative that doesn’t have support from senior management will run into failure. A McKinsey survey found that support at all levels is crucial for any company program advancement. 

The fastest way to get all staff behind an initiative is to ensure senior executives are in your corner. Managers and staff are quick to read the tone at the top to know what to give priority. Achieving this tone alignment is critical to success in a busy multi-tasking environment. 

Cultivating cybersecurity inclusion into IT strategy is also more likely to succeed when you’ve got support from the board. To get this high-level backing, CISOs must also find ways to show tangible benefits to partners and shareholders. 

CISOs can achieve this by showing how security enables business and isn’t a barrier to profits. You want to also explain how a cyber attack or data breach can have financial, legal, and reputational repercussions. Another thing you can do is provide statistics and estimated losses in business reputation and financial position. 

Establish losses from: 

Image of a person sticking yellow and pink post it notes on a white sheet.
Make sure your IT and cybersecurity are reading from the same page!

3. Build Relationships and Communication

Poor communication costs companies $35+ billion annually, according to a Holmes Report. Policy, process, and procedure are all necessary tools in advancing collaboration between teams. 

IT departments should work on building close working relationships. Soft skills on either side are also critical in this regard. You may consider merging departments into one room. This can help with team bonding and communication. You want to explain that the purpose is to make sure staff isn’t lost. It’s also to enable interdepartmental self-development. 

Cybersecurity and IT strategies are at greater risk of a disconnect when they lose informal communication. If you can’t move teams together, try regular team-building retreats. Monthly interdepartmental meetings can also help, especially when you add breaks. Consider organizing a communal breakfast or lunch with the CIO and CISO present.

4. Use Standard Frameworks

The cybersecurity team can’t realize security goals on its own and depends on IT for actual implementation. In turn, IT takes the necessary actions to realize security goals. One example is when a new system’s password rules aren’t consistent with the company’s cybersecurity policy. Cybersecurity teams can point out this flaw, but it’s often the IT staff who make the changes to ensure compliance. 

That’s why you want to consider leveraging standard security frameworks. Security frameworks define interdependency and also provide you with security roles for other departments. Frameworks also help guide you in setting comparable metrics. That way, no ambiguity about end goals develops. 

To achieve this, you can define yearly targets and break them down into quarterly and semi-annual milestones. A framework ensures you can identify all aspects of IT security and rank these based on risk targets.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), for example, has developed a framework you can use. According to one survey, 2 in 5 US companies use this standard. The framework helps companies develop a security roadmap using industry best practices. This ultimately also helps different departments ensure success.

The NIST framework also provides a practical guideline for a firm’s cybersecurity. This includes scoping its present and target state. NIST also helps identify opportunities for improvement and a repeatable continually improving process. Finally, NIST aids with defining monitoring and communication processes for stakeholders. 

5. Build Security into Enterprise Solutions

Cybersecurity and IT strategy integration should extend to the rest of your supply chain. One way is to create a unified endpoint management system entry before making a device available to a client. If clients need access to an application, this mustn’t endanger the internal systems’ security. 

Unsecured devices and unregulated access can become loopholes for many cyberthreats. Some examples include phishing, malware, and ransomware attacks. That’s why an integrated approach to product security is important when using Internet of Things (IoT) technology. In general, accessibility increases attack surfaces.

Final Thoughts

Today’s companies can’t afford to have a cybersecurity and IT strategy disconnect. That’s why you need a clear roadmap that involves harnessing various roles and teams. Executive adoption, empowering cybersecurity leadership, and building relationships between departments are critical. You also want to cultivate communication, leverage standardized frameworks, and build cybersecurity into all products. Initial friction between the two teams will subside, enabling collaboration as time goes on. 



Can an Intrusion Prevention System (IPS) enhance your cybersecurity?

Yes, an IPS can improve your cybersecurity solution. It works by examining every packet’s header and contents before allowing it into the network. Firewalls only look at headers and are more susceptible to malware. That said, ensure the IPS database and rulesets are current and include the latest threats.

Which are the most popular cybersecurity frameworks?

ISO 27001/27002, NIST’s CSF, and ISACA’s COBIT are three of the most popular cybersecurity frameworks. They’re useful to follow as industrial leads in the field. They also present cybersecurity best practices. Adopt best practices and follow industrial standards, not your own. If you don’t, you’ll likely miss measures and create security gaps.

What are organizational cybersecurity silos?

In management, silos occur when departments within the same organization operate autonomously. This limits information flow between each one. This can be great to protect teams from security threats but not to enable cybersecurity policy. That results in employees being more loyal to their department than to the company as a whole.

Who does the CISO usually report to?

Reporting lines vary between companies and align to business maturity levels. Report lines between the CISO can include; CEO, CIO, CFO, COO, or CRO. In many companies, the CISO also has a reporting line to the board.

Why is an organizational cultural transformation so difficult?

Forcing people out of their comfort zones is a challenge. People don’t like learning new things as they’ve become efficient in the tasks they handle for a long time. The uncertainty of what change creates often also drives resistance to transformation. This includes processes and social interactions. Fear and anger associated with change diminish with more knowledge. Another thing that can help win people over is to explain processes before implementation. 



TechGenix’s Advancement of Cybersecurity Article

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TechGenix’s Developing A Robust Cybersecurity Strategy

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TechGenix’s Cyber-deception Article

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TechGenix’s Strategy Plan Article

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TechGenix’s Winning Cloud Security Strategy Article

Discover how to create a winning cloud security strategy here.

TechGenix’s IT Intake Strategies Article

Find out how to streamline your organization’s intake here.

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