I have had some great conversations since Raf Los (@Wh1t3Rabbit) posted his podcast Monday. Much of the talk has been around some advantages that we do have.
Down the Rabbithole – Episode 4 – Effective Small Business Security
First, information security is a scaling problem.
I have a staffing rule of thumb. I have posted it before, but I’ll repeat it. Take the employees, networked devices, and IT support staff. Security is 1 FTE per 1K employees, 1 FTE per 5K devices, or 1 FTE per 20 IT employees. Most security folks that I have talked with fall within this range, whether they work with multi-nationals or mom-and-pop shops.
This applies to my case. I am dedicated 25% to security. I have 250 end users and around a thousand end-points, servers, switches, routers, and firewalls. Luckily we have more than 5 IT folks, but you get the idea.
The scopes of security challenges remain consistent regardless of the scale. But we on the small medium business side do have a few unique opportunities.
Information security pros at the SMB level have advantages.
Reach. There are fewer layers between us and executive management. The board level directives can flow right into our security planning. There are fewer layers between us and line employees. The security controls can flow right into their daily activities. Communications are simpler in smaller organizations.
Flexibility. If you are an army of one, not much time is needed for generalship. Reaction and response can be quicker. Process and procedure can be reduced, in favor of action and implementation.
Cooperation. Baking security in means getting buy in from the IT operations team, the software development team, the IT engineering folks, the project managers, the business analysts, and IT management. With separate teams, this can mean significant work just to navigate the politics. More time can be spent on implementing and less on negotiating when all the folks are in one team.
End-to-end. One dedicated InfoSec pro in a company with less than 5K devices can hold the entire network in his mind. Two dedicated FTEs and 10K devices, and you’ll end up naturally dividing the work between each other. Reach 100K devices secured by 20 InfoSec guys, and one person knowing every nut-and-bolt becomes impossible.
A small network can be a very secure network.
Security flaws come from the people creating the security controls in a vacuum with no relation to the organization’s mission. Security flaws come from people working on the front lines, with no ideas of the control environment. Flaws come from projects without security tasks, from systems that go-live without security review, and from bolted-on security features. Flaws and weaknesses crop up in the gaps of responsibility between teams, and between people.
A security pro in a small medium business is in a position to make a significant contribution to their organization.