This week Mike Arnavutian, head of security strategy at BT Global Services, warns against taking an isolationist approach to your organisation's security.
The vast majority of organisations have a medieval IT security policy. Like villages 500 years ago, their emphasis lies on protecting their assets from the perimeter, keeping out unwelcome individuals and viruses.
Analyst Infonetics predicts that this trend is to continue, with the global market for intrusion detection expected to quadruple to £1bn by 2006.
But in today's fast-paced environment, built on global connectivity, how beneficial is this isolationist approach?
E-business is all about sharing. Successful organisations are those who can respond quickly to market flux by working hand in glove with their customers, suppliers and partners.
Increasingly that means providing people outside the enterprise with access to information lying within the perimeter. Simply operating a closed shop is no longer good enough.
But as soon as an organisation opens up its firewall, allowing external parties access to its corporate network, it becomes more vulnerable to attack. So today's businesses are facing a catch-22: how do they open up their walls while protecting their assets from opportunists?
A recent survey by Deloitte & Touche showed that 40 per cent of financial institutions have suffered a security breach in the past 12 months, with the absence of a coherent security policy across all business units a key reason.
In order to avoid the risk of having a fragmented and inefficient security system, organisations must adopt a holistic approach to security.
After all, as comedy terrorist Aaron Barshak recently illustrated, there's no point in hiring expensive security for the front door if another entry point is left unchecked.
Businesses are vulnerable to many different forms of attack from a number of quarters. So, to ensure that the security measures implemented are effective, a company-wide risk assessment should be carried out, evaluating where vulnerabilities lie and prioritising data in terms of its sensitivity.
This should be combined with a detailed cost-benefit analysis to ensure return on investment. Only a fool would ring a £100 horse with a £1,000 fence.
The next step for an organisation is to implement an appropriate security solution. But before doing this it is important to consider who will be accessing what information, and from where.
If companies are to work closely and effectively with customers, suppliers and partners, they need to be able to identify specific individuals and supply them with secure access to the information they need, while keeping sensitive data protected.
Authentication technologies have been around for years in one form or another (even medieval villagers sometimes used secret passwords to vet guests before welcoming them) and there are several options available for organisations today.
Passwords, voice recognition, smartcards and biometrics can be used to identify individuals, while technologies such as IPSec provide secure access.
Another key consideration is education. Any individual who has access to a corporate network needs to understand that they are a key link in the safeguarding of company data.
It is possible to provide an individual with a user identification name and password, but if they leave their computer unattended and logged in to a programme, or if they choose an obvious password, even the most sophisticated security accessories are a waste of money.
According to the Department of Trade and Industry's Computer Security Survey 2002, the average cost of a security breach is €50,000.
And it's worth bearing in mind that the damage could be much greater than that in terms of harming reputation, shareholder value, productivity and market share.
Organisations that have suffered a major disruption to their business sometimes have difficulty trading for many years afterwards. In a worst-case scenario they may even suffer total business failure.
Only a holistic security policy, which acknowledges the fact that no business can operate successfully as an island, is viable.
In today's competitive environment only the fittest, most collaborative organisations will survive, while those that take a medieval approach to security are likely to be consigned to the depths of history.
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