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Why businesses today recruit information security specialists

Filed under: Features — Stephanie on August 2, 2013

The digital revolution, over the past 20 years or so, has wrought big changes, many of them positive. Familiar activities, such as booking holidays, studying for a degree, staying in touch with friends and family abroad, are no longer location specific. A computing device and an internet connection (and sometimes a bank account) are all that’s required. While being undoubtedly liberating, however, the digital age has not been without its problems; one of the main issues has been the growth of computer viruses, malware, hacking and other forms of cybercrime. As the Internet has become more open, so too have more loopholes been revealed and hungrily exploited.

For the individual home user, these IT security breaches have been trying enough, both in terms of time and expense. For corporations and large organisations, the consequences have sometimes bordered on the catastrophic. In 2011, for example, the customer database of a major games console manufacturer was hacked in a way which compromised the personal information of millions of customers. As well as names and addresses, payment data was also exposed.

Meanwhile, in 2007, it was reported:

“Personal data on every child in the country and national insurance numbers and bank account details of parents and carers claiming child benefit have gone missing after the government sent two password-protected CDs through the post.”

The above two incidents were very different in kind; one a criminal intrusion, the other an institutional blunder resulting from a lack of embedded information security procedures. However, in both cases, as well as the practical effects, the impact on reputation was perhaps the most damaging. In the era of social networking, a good name, a reputation for reliability and strong security can be damaged overnight – and the climb back up the hill to rebuild reputation can be arduous.

Information security – now a primary concern

For this reason alone, companies and organisations have been taking information security a lot more seriously than in the pre-digital era. This is to the extent that a veritable IT security industry, with its distinctive career paths, has evolved. Information security professionals are hired at varying levels within organisations primarily for preventive reasons, and sometimes, alas, for fire fighting reasons.

While reputational and brand protection is the main reason, there are other reasons for making sure that information security practitioners are on board.

Guarding intellectual property

For many companies, their IP is their all. Intellectual property may simply consist of an electronic rolodex or a series of chemical formulas for a research lab. Without its IP, however, a brand loses its USP and is considerably endangered.

Business continuity

Finally, if the security of a business is breached, depending on the incident severity, there could be an impact on the ability of that business to trade during the aftermath. Sales might suffer, and the manufacturing and distribution cycle could be harmed. Information security specialists are often needed to make sure there is always a plan B, ensuring that, in the event of a mishap or criminal event, trading can continue without dropping a beat.

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