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The Impossible Task of Measuring the Efficacy of a Security Investment

When I asked Wendy Nather (@rciscwendy), research director at R-CISC, if there was any way we can measure the value of investing in security, she simply said, “No.”

The problem, said Nather, is we don’t know what to buy. This eye-opening realization came about when Nather did a study where she asked security professionals what CISOs should buy. She got so many suggestions from the professionals recommending anywhere from 4 to 31 different technologies.

While Nather sees spending going up, companies are buying fewer duplicates of things, and they’re figuring out where they can cut back.

“Most CISOs are now realizing that their security investments have to have a business case as well as a security case,” said Nather. “Otherwise, they’re not going to get it approved.”

Known vulnerabilities that go unpatched for years

“If you work in a regular enterprise there’s always a really good reason something is not getting fixed,” admitted Nather on the reality of unpatched vulnerabilities.

Nather explained that a company may have a vulnerability on an old machine that requires upgrading the operating system, but they can’t upgrade to a new OS because there’s one critical old business application that can only run on Windows XP.

While it seems like a foolish situation to a security researcher, Nather realizes that an old, yet highly vulnerable machine, can often remain a business imperative. It’s an understanding of business operations she wished other researchers would understand.