Category : Business

“Compliance is for BIG Business!” OR so you think.

Compliance – The Issue

If a small business CEO thinks about compliance, he or she might think it’s relegated to big businesses. Who else has the funding, the personnel, and of course, the time to attend to compliance? And does it really matter anyway? Who’s going to come after a small business that doesn’t have a compliance department or deep pockets to sue?

Unfortunately, that’s not the problem. The issue is that a small company has suppliers, customers, and colleagues who are all part of a larger value chain, stretching from supplier to manufacturer to reseller to customer. Every link in the chain communicates with at least one other link. Some of those links are tiny, some are huge. Sometimes the communication is a phone call. Sometimes it’s a wire transfer.

Small Company X may not be the target, but their Huge Customer Q is excellent prey! Remember, this is exactly how Target was hacked a few years back. For companies that think, “We’re too small to make a difference,” this example should serve as official notice.

But we’re a small company…

The value chain problem is old news at this point; we all know how hacks can “travel” from supplier to customer, and so forth.

What is new is the ability of a small company to meet compliance and security needs without having to hire employees, build a department, and trudge through the tiny details themselves. With new GRC tools built as SaaS platforms and priced affordably, it’s possible and relatively straight forward to implement. Add in Managed Service Providers (MSPs), Managed Security Service Providers (MSSPs), and make them affordable, and now you’re cooking with fire!

What’s it going to cost me?

So let’s get down to brass tacks: What does it cost to have my security, compliance, and IT handled for me? OK, remember, these are estimated numbers but here we go. MSP’s charge about $100 per person per month. That’s the rule of thumb, so it might be more costly for a complex environment or highly regulated systems.

MSSP charges are a lot more variable. If you want them to only monitor your firewall, that’s a few hundred bucks per month or less. If you want the provider to execute vulnerability scanning and policy review, help you plan your incident response, do forensics, etc., it can range from $2000 per month to $15k per month, or more, depending. But remember, a lot of those costs don’t increase incrementally as you grow; they might only tier when you hit 50 people, 100 people, 250 people, etc.

As for GRC platforms, some of them are built as shrink wrap, but the SaaS options are offered for as low as $20 per person per month.

Let’s forecast the costs for a 25 person company that’s using an MSP for outsourced IT, an MSSP for compliance policy review, vulnerability scanning and management, and a GRC platform that helps everybody get their compliance tasks and evidence handled.

25 people

MSP – $100 per month per person /25 people – $2500 per month

MSSP – Vulnerability scanning and management, Incident response hours, compliance – $4000 per month, flat rate

GRC – $20 per person per month /25 people – $500 per month

For approximately $7k a month, you can have your IT, IT security, compliance, and incident response handled. Add in another $10-15k for an annual penetration test and you end up at a yearly total of around $99,000, essentially the cost of a single employee. Because most full time employees also require HR administration and benefits, you could be saving an additional 30% or so on taxes, healthcare, and insurance on top of the person’s salary. Effectively, one headcount cost will handle the majority of your compliance, security, and IT needs, and these programs will be managed by dedicated specialists.

OK, but are we really at risk?

If you’re running a small business you might be thinking, “That’s a chunk of change!” Remember, though, when Target was breached through their small HVAC vendor, it cost Target a lot more than $100,000. And I bet they stopped using that HVAC vendor, which equals a ton of lost revenue for the small company. That one breach might also have cost the HVAC vendor future business relationships. If they were thinking straight, though, once they were notified of their part in the breach they rushed to implement better security controls, bought cyber insurance, and contracted with outside partners to keep systems and compliance up to date. None of that is cheap, and it’s even more costly to add after the organization has already been affected (think: buying health insurance after a preexisting condition versus before).

When you realize that value chains are effectively one entity, all connected, all together, then making sure you’re protected helps not only the value chain you’re in now, but reduces the sales friction for all the value chains you could be in, for those new customers you’d like to conduct business with in the future. Working with suppliers in new verticals also becomes easier because your company can pass compliance and security questionnaires, plus your IT team (the MSP) keeps your technology up to date and within the scope of new regulations. More and more regulations are put in place every month; don’t fall behind.

What’s next?

If all of this sounds like a lot to digest and a huge financial burden, keep in mind that all of the solutions mentioned here are modular. This isn’t an “all or nothing” approach. If your business already employs an IT team, great, you might not need an MSP! Have a compliance officer? You might not need the GRC tool! Etc.

Of course, small businesses could always operate without any security or compliance management. Does anybody know what happened to the HVAC company that facilitated the Target breach? I think they’re actually still in business, but that’s surprising. The statistics tell us that over 70% of small businesses which suffer a cyber incident don’t remain in business.

The interconnectedness of the internet, payment systems, fulfillment houses, and suppliers means that all companies—not just big ones—need to meet basic standards, including minimum viable security and compliance. Value chains will want secure and compliant companies, and shun companies which aren’t.

Simple as that.

read more

How Technologists and the Business don’t communicate.

Initially released February 6, 2017 for MISTI – Business for Technologists – Technologists are the bedrock of IT and IT security. They innovate, create, build, implement, maintain, and decommission the most amazing software and hardware systems ever compiled. Even something as simple as a file server, which is only supposed to store and backup files, has to deal with firewall rules, authentication, authorization, travel across VPN’s, backup/restore, and monstrous amounts of other factors.

Why do technologists not understand business?

Why do technologists struggle to become entrepreneurs? And when they’re embedded in a corporation, why do they have issues getting budget allocated to handle the problems that they, the techie, can clearly see will cause massive issues in the future? Why does senior leadership not understand the problem from the techie’s perspective?

Because business is not tech. Corporations these days look at technology as a cost center unless the business is either a bank or an information security company. Sure they may spend money on the new shiny “next-gen” equipment, but does it really enhance operations? The answer is emphatically “No.”

Tech is not business unless you are in the business of tech

The structural elements of technology are the pieces that support revenue generation, but they don’t actually generate any revenue on their own. It is the people and other intellectual resources within an organization that make the business run (and generate revenue), with direction from senior leadership.

Yet we see the technologists as the “Entrepreneur-Revolutionaries.” Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates. All techies, all disruptive innovators, all amazing! There’s a catch.

Very few serious technologists are business people

Notice the three entrepreneurs mentioned above? Why do you think there are so few of those types of names that are also household names? Because there aren’t many of them. Like God, Cher, and Superman, there aren’t many immediately recognizable super-beings, super-music, or super-heroes.

“But I have a great idea!!! It solves a big problem I have! I should make a billion dollars!” say more entrepreneurs than we can count. “Who else has that problem? Are there enough of them with enough spend that we can make a billion dollars?” asked every angel investor and VC firm ever.

Technologists spend time thinking about problems and solutions. It’s massively important! But business people, unlike technologists, think about their product or service in terms of who will buy it, who will support it, who will maintain it, and how much it will cost to acquire a customer. There are other considerations too: How to market it, how to brand it, how to protect the intellectual property, and how to raise enough money to get the cash flow working in the corporate favor rather than burning right through all the funds.

Selling a product is just as hard as developing the product

Most technologists don’t realize that there are sales leads that need to be generated, contacts that need to be cultivated, and supporting business purchases that need to be made (insurance, legal services, copiers, accounting software, anyone?). All of this under the mountain of paperwork that needs to be completed to ensure that one party does not take unfair advantage of the other during the process. If that’s not enough to think about, all of this must meet the goals of the business and be tied to the direction of senior leadership.

Business needs to learn how to interface with technologists

Business people can work with technologists to learn how to think about solving technology problems, and how to understand the terminology and thought processes of a technology buyer. To sell the solution properly, discuss it intelligibly, and sustain growth, business people must learn these skills.

The end game

Technologists generally have massive issues seeing the bigger picture, just as business people have massive issues understanding the complexities of the technology solutions built. These different ways of thinking are not failures on anyone’s part; in fact, they are learning experiences waiting to happen. Technologists can work with business people to learn how to implement, sell, market and brand a given solution, and then learn how to grow a business based on that solution. Next, they can architect solutions to make it easier for business.

Ultimately, communication is the answer.

 

About the Authors: Joshua Marpet and Scott Lyons can be found presenting at InfoSec World, and other MISTI conferences, as well as Security BSides Delaware, Derbycon, Defcon, Shmoocon, etc. Ask them business, entrepreneurial, and technology questions. But be ready to get a long answer. Have a drink with you. You’ll need it.

read more

Business Development – The best non-four letter dirty word in infosec.

Business Development is not a dirty word.

Everyone today wants to start their own business. I mean Dave Kennedy did it, how hard could it be? (Love you, Dave!) So you gather your team.  You can do the pen-testing and Jimmy over there can handle Incident Response, right? So what’s the big deal? Why aren’t customers knocking down my door? Don’t they know how awesome we are?  Business Development.

No, it’s not a dirty word. BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT is how you make money. It’s how you put food on the table and a roof over your head. You can do the work. Cool! Where’s the work coming from? You know, those things called customers?

Let’s address the mysteries of business development. We will take you from the initial meeting in the boardroom, through identification of stakeholders, getting the Statement of Work hammered out and signed, finding the ideal employee, and getting the job done all while effortlessly making the money.

We will also cover what happens when you screw up each and every single step of the process, as well. (Trust us, you will! We did!) 🙂

We’ll discuss the differences between a product based business and a service based business, explain the process, the funnel, the problems, the success stories. And it’s all real.

Bottom line: Starting a business is easy! Keeping the doors open? Not so much. If it was easy, everyone would do it!? – Albert Einstein, or maybe Abraham Lincoln

Watch a pre-Red Lion Scott Lyons (CEO) and Josh Marpet (COO) present another one of their Business for Technologists talks at Derybcon 6.0 in Louisville, KY below.

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mo4L6-vI8bE[/embedyt]

read more