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A Study in Security

IBM-sponsored research reveals how C-level executives view security

IBM-sponsored research reveals how C-level executives view security

The word “security” is thrown around frequently today, thanks to high-profile breaches of customer data in the last few years. When you think about it, security can mean many different things depending on who—or what—needs to be secure. When you consider your physical security, home-security key pads may come to mind. But those key pads will be no help to your financial security if your stock takes a hit on Wall Street.

This is exactly the point Jack Danahy, worldwide security executive for IBM Rational* software, makes when he explains why security is important. “Security cannot be described or understood as an absolute or consistent term,” he says. “Even in our own lives, our financial security is different from our physical security, and the ways that we safeguard our cars are very different from the ways that we safeguard our children. Data security for organizations is similarly varied, ranging from concerns about disclosure, corruption and loss, to strategies for complying with many new and developing regulations.”

Danahy researches new areas of security that interest or impact IBM customers, as well as the markets those customers serve. He shares his findings within IBM and his insights are often included in speeches and articles—both public and internal to IBM. His research also contributes to IBM’s vision for an effective overall security strategy to bring value to its customers. “I’m responsible for helping customers and analysts understand the use and implementation of our security products from process and architectural perspectives, working with them to create models that will best leverage our technologies to solve real-world challenges,” he says.

The Ponemon Institute Studies

Last year the Ponemon Institute, a Traverse City, Mich.-based privacy and information-management research firm, partnered with IBM to deliver the first study to determine how C-level executives in the U.S. view corporate data-protection efforts within their organizations. The study, which surveyed 213 C-level executives, set out to conclude how aware business executives are of their organizations’ data-protection efforts and what CEOs consider the economic justification to invest in a data-protection program.

The Ponemon Institute released a similar study in March that outlined security concerns among C-level business leaders in the United Kingdom. This IBM-sponsored study surveyed 115 C-level business executives, 77 percent of whom reported that their organizations experienced data breaches. All respondents noted they’ve had their data attacked in the last year, and 76 percent thought reducing potential security flaws within business-critical applications is the most important aspect of a data-protection program. Concerns about disclosure, corruption, data loss and developing strategies to comply with regulations are at the forefront for many organizations.

“This study was commissioned to help us understand and describe the landscape of those concerns and to do so in the language of those for whom these issues are real and pressing,” Danahy says. “The insights from the Ponemon study are very important because they communicate a more nuanced view of the market’s concerns in security, and they highlight some of the differing priorities that will be found between CEOs and their C-level counterparts.”

It seems as though the recent security breaches worldwide are on the minds of all those surveyed for this study.

“In the face of growing security threats, business leaders are finally recognizing that a strong data-protection strategy plays a critical role to their bottom line,” says Dr. Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of The Ponemon Institute. “Once viewed as purely a technical issue, the responses garnered in our survey highlight a shift in how organizations are treating their investments in security software. Today, C-level executives believe the cost savings from investing in a data-protection program is substantially higher than the estimated value of recovering from a breach.”

Caroline Vitse is a freelance writer based in Rochester, Minnesota.

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