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How to protect your mission-critical information

Thor Olavsrud | Sept. 22, 2016
A new report by the Information Security Forum (ISF) outlines the steps you can take to determine your mission-critical information assets and create customised plans for protecting them.

protecting data

Given the vast and increasing volumes of data within organizations today, securing your data can seem an insurmountable task. But you can get your arms around it if you assess the value of your data and focus your attention on protecting your mission-critical information assets — the crown jewels.

Yesterday, the nonprofit Information Security Forum (ISF) announced the availability of Protecting the Crown Jewels: How to Secure Mission-Critical Information Assets, the latest in a series of reports geared to helping organizations do just that.

"Businesses must prioritize the protection of mission-critical information assets," says Steve Durbin, managing director of the ISF. "Far too often, organizations consider the value of these assets, but fail to recognize the extent to which they are exposed to global security threats."

Standard security practices won't do

Conventional approaches to deploying security controls rarely provide appropriate or sufficient protection for mission-critical information assets, Durbin says, because they tend to follow a cookie-cutter approach. By understanding the value of all your information assets and which actors might benefit from them, he says, you can prioritize them and provide effective protection customized for each asset.

The ISF's new report uses the ISF Protection Process, a structured, methodical process for determining the approaches required to deliver comprehensive, balanced protection.

Identify mission-critical information assets

Before you can protect your organization's mission-critical information assets, you need to know what they are.

"Given all this information across your organization, what is it that's actually important to you as an enterprise," Durbin asks. "What is mission critical? How do you identify that? Protect that?"

It's important to note, he adds, that some mission-critical information assets are clear and will always be mission critical. For a company like Heinz, it might be its ketchup recipe. For Apple, the blueprint for an iPhone would be a mission-critical information asset. However, other mission-critical assets may only be important for a period. The marketing plan for a new iPhone may be mission-critical leading up to launch, but the importance of keeping that information secure fades after the launch — it's no longer mission critical.

"Another example is M&A," Durbin says. "In the early stages, as boards talk about an acquisition, it's probably not mission critical. But as you get closer to the deal, there's a lot more information that is probably of interest to a lot more people. Board members are probably going to be holding important papers on their laptops. How do we ring fence that information in a way that's acceptable to the organization, but also to the end user? In this case, it isn't about everybody. It's about you as a board member."


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