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I spy with my beady eye ...

Oct 31, 2019

NBlog November - privacy awareness update

Privacy is a deeper, broader and more complex than it might appear, blending personal, organizational and societal issues. Privacy means different things to different people. Privacy and information security have a lot in common but each goes further. 

Personal information is both sensitive and valuable, hence the associated information risks deserve to be identified, evaluated and treated in the same manner as other information risks. 

Compliance with privacy laws and regulations such as GDPR should be a non-issue if the organization takes privacy seriously. However, there are specific obligations that need to be identified and satisfied.

From an individual’s perspective, privacy is mostly about people retaining control over their own personal information (e.g. being able to restrict its use and onward disclosure).

From the organizational perspective, personal information is acquired, processed and exploited for various business purposes - hopefully within the bounds of privacy laws, regulations and ethics.

Our primary concern in this security awareness module is to help workers (staff, managers and specialists) appreciate and fulfill their respective obligations under privacy policies, laws and regulations (such as GDPR, CCPA and HIPAA), mostly by maintaining the confidentiality of personal information in their care. However, integrity and availability of personal information are also relevant considerations, ensuring that personal information is reasonably complete, accurate and accessible for legitimate business and personal purposes.

  • Introduces privacy, providing general context and background information on privacy concepts; 
  • Expands on the information risks and security controls applicable to personal information; 
  • Emphasizes the legal, regulatory and ethical compliance aspects – particularly given the punitive financial penalties available under GDPR; 
  • Motivates workers to think - and most of all act - in the best interests of data subjects (first) and the organization (second), for example: taking privacy seriously (this is no trivial matter); complying with privacy policies, regulations and laws, plus ethical and social norms; avoiding risky or inappropriate activities that might unduly compromise privacy; respecting data subjects’ privacy rights and reasonable expectations; and reasonably expecting or demanding that their own privacy rights are respected as well.
Consider your learning objectives in relation to privacy. Consult and collaborate with your Privacy Officer (if you have one!). Take into account the particular laws and regulations that apply to your organization. Consider any privacy incidents, breaches or near-misses you have suffered - plus those that might be ongoing right now but have yet to be noticed and reported.

Work with colleagues to spread the word about this topic. Privacy is pertinent to:
  • Everyone regarding their own personal information, privacy rights and expectations;
  • Workers handling or accessing personal information at work, such as those in HR, company medics, and managers;
  • Management in general, given the governance, direction, oversight, compliance and risk management implications;
  • Information owners, risk owners, application owners etc. for privacy-relevant IT systems, services and business processes; 
  • The Privacy Officer or equivalent and colleagues. They should ideally get directly involved in planning and delivering the awareness content, for example checking that the materials and messages support and comply – rather than conflict – with applicable policies, laws, regulations and practices; 
  • IT in respect of personal data stored, processed and communicated on IT systems and networks;
  • Cloud Service Providers for cloud apps involving personal data, and other third party information service providers such as HR, tax and legal services (suppliers should have their own privacy policies, procedures, controls, awareness and training programs in pact, but it may be worth prompting your relationship managers to ask them a few questions this month);
  • Information Risk and Security, plus Risk Management, Legal/Compliance and Audit;
  • Facilities and Physical Security e.g. concerning cleaning rest rooms and other private areas, monitoring workers and visitors on CCTV systems, and personal information held in the card access control systems etc.;
  • Anyone who has personally suffered a privacy breach, identity theft or similar, or is close to someone who has.
The new module is available to download now from SecAware.com

Oct 23, 2019

NBlog Oct 23 - transparency and oversight

Along with increasing legal and regulatory compliance pressures on organizations to implement appropriate privacy controls, popular awareness of the issues appears to be on the up with commercial implications for organizations.

Global IT megacorps such as Facebook, Microsoft, Apple and Google are particularly exposed to public criticism simply because they are household names ... but that's not to say they are powerless, far from it.  Contrast Apple's handling of the FBI iPhone security incident against Facebook's handling of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, plus other privacy incidents.

All the megacorps have to take their own cybersecurity seriously simply because they are such massive targets facing business-critical information risks: it's literally an existential issue. They are also forced to comply with various laws and regulations, for the same reasons as any other organization - to avoid potentially huge punitive fines and other substantial costs arising from noncompliance incidents. In addition, they make strategic and commercial choices on privacy and related matters. Their internal policies and corporate cultures influence the extent to which they satisfy broader ethical obligations towards customers, employees and others.

I see an interesting distinction opening up between reality and perception. Apple has been quite vocal and forthright in public about its concerns for customer privacy, whereas at the other end of the sale Facebook comes across negatively and consequently faces a hammering from the media (both traditional journalism and social media). Google and Microsoft appear (to me) somewhat ambiguous, dithering around the middle of the scale: at times they claim to be highly concerned about security and privacy, yet their actions sometimes indicate otherwise. Given their marketing prowess with huge budgets and global reach, I have the distinct feeling we're all being manipulated on a grand scale, so who knows what's really going on in terms of governance and ethical direction from their boardrooms? 

The same concern applies to our governments, with the added complication of their being able to duck behind 'official secrets'. Whistleblowers such as Assange, Snowden and Manning are just the few with the guts and good fortune to beat the machinery of government to the draw. In regimes such as China, Russia, North Korea and Turkmenistan (plus many others), governmental oppression is plenty strong enough to prove liberty and life-threatening for anyone with the affront to challenge authority. 

So what, if anything, can/should be done about this? Personally, being a reformed/former auditor, I'm a big fan of transparency and accountability, although at the same time I accept that there are genuine reasons for all types and sizes of organizations to retain some measure of privacy about certain aspects of their internal affairs. The audit approach revolves around internal assessment by competent, independent investigators, a strong form of oversight. It is trust-based, in that auditors are granted privileged access to private internal matters, in much the same way that we trust our doctors with intensely private medically-related information ... because it's in our interests to do so. That self-interest is the key, for me, turning public unease through disquiet into pressure to open up, hopefully without the situation degenerating towards anarchy.

In the case of commercial organizations, their profit motive represents a vulnerability: if sufficient customers revolt, lightening their wallets elsewhere, companies appearing deficient in privacy and security may be forced to take more care, or at least open up and prove that they are doing things right.

Investigative journalism is another approach, although independence and bias is a concern given pressures from media moguls, not least to sell more papers, plus various constraints imposed by the authorities and of course the organizations being challenged. As to social media (such as NBlog!), fake news is not just a game played by the big players, raising questions about the competence and integrity of social media pundits (like me!). Is this blog piece fair and reasonable, unbiased and insightful, or am I pushing an agenda and skewing the topic to suit some ulterior purpose? You decide, dear reader. I hope you'll come back for more but if not, it's goodbye from me.

Oct 22, 2019

NBlog Oct 22 - a business case for privacy





This week I'm slugging away at the coal face to complete the management materials for November's privacy awareness module - an update on our previous coverage to reflect current issues, recent incidents and so forth.




As always, we'll be providing a set of goodies specifically aimed at management from which customers can pick and choose to suit their purposes:
1.      Diagrams for privacy - the topic in pictures
2.      Management seminar on privacy - see below
3.      Board agenda on privacy compliance - I blogged about this on Friday
4.      Elevator pitch on privacy - sums up the key points in about 150 carefully-chosen words
5.      Model policy on privacy compliance - a template to customize
6.      Model policy on privacy inquiries, complaints & incidents - another policy template
7.      Executive briefing on privacy - a high-level one-pager 
8.      Management briefing on privacy - a more in-depth briefing/discussion piece
9.      Model job description for Privacy Officer - outlines the typical role and responsibilities
10.  Privacy metric - suggesting how to measure what matters most in this area

I've made solid progress on the management seminar slide deck today, laying out the key messages and telling the story through engaging graphics with enough supporting content to make managers sit up and take notice.

The other day I blogged about substantial penalties for GDPR noncompliance. Today, in writing the speaker notes to accompany a slide about privacy risks from the organization's perspective, I wrote this about the impacts:
The organizational consequences of privacy incidents can include penalties (potentially huge fines under GDPR plus class action) and other consequential business impacts (bad publicity and reputational damage, customer defection, loss of trust and respect, more rigorous scrutiny by the authorities) on top of the direct costs (incident investigation and resolution, hurriedly improved information security, credit reporting and compensation for those affected etc.).
... and, with hindsight, it occurred to me how negatively that comes across, emphasizing the costly nature of being held to account for privacy fails.  

So, how about something more positive to balance that out, emphasizing the gains arising from privacy wins? "Nice idea, Gary, but what are you on about?"

I'd like to elaborate on the business benefits other than the obvious intent to avoid or reduce those costs. Are there any? Well, yet there are, but to be honest they are not exactly overwhelming - things such as establishing a trustworthy, ethical reputation among customers and others (including employees, by the way. Cogitate on that for a moment. Does it matter to the business if employees don't trust their employer to protect personal information, not least their own? I believe it does, but it would be hard to prove or substantiate).

It might not be possible to build a business case for privacy purely on the positives, which perhaps explains why this is such a heavily compliance-driven area in practice. Still, I'll see what I can come up with. I enjoy that sort of challenge.

Oct 18, 2019

NBlog Oct 18 - a universal awareness device

Since the very beginning of NoticeBored back in 2003, one of our regular monthly deliverables has been a "board agenda" - a security awareness item aimed at informing and engaging the most senior managers in an organization.

At that stratospheric level, awareness materials need to be both succinct and relevant to stand any hope of being used. Senior managers are extremely busy people. 

The board agendas are each just one side of paper if printed, as is usually the case for board papers in their briefing packs. We deliberately avoid jargon and lengthy explanation on the basis that the audience is both busy and competent, generally highly experienced and quick-witted people keen to get straight down to business. The audience isn't expected to know everything, but hopefully they can rely on the support of their trusted networks of peers and direct reports, plus of course the remaining security awareness content provided. Oh and Google, naturally. We'd love them to read and consider these papers ahead of the meeting, but if not they are simple enough to figure out on the fly.

The NoticeBored papers all fall within the broad area of information risk and security covering the same topic area as the remaining awareness content in the module, reflecting the design goal of encouraging social interaction and discourse throughout the organization. Security awareness is not just something to be aimed at 'users', treating them condescendingly as mere serfs! We're consciously socializing information risk and security, making it an integral part of the corporate culture, top to bottom, side to side.

Given the specific target audience for the papers, relevance is achieved by emphasizing high-level matters that most concern senior management, namely business aspects such as strategy, governance and compliance ... talking of which, we'll be incorporating this colorful diagram into November's board agenda for the privacy awareness module:

The idea is deceptively simple: following an introductory paragraph briefly outlining the topic, senior managers will be invited to consider their positions on privacy compliance, 'make their mark' somewhere appropriate within the triangle, then discuss the topic with their peers at the next meeting.

The red-amber-green triangle is an elaboration on the linear RAG spectrum figures we use routinely - such as this one from the current awareness module on digital forensics:




Either way, this highly visual approach is an excellent means to set people thinking about the topic, expressing their opinions in a manner that encourages open discussion of their respective viewpoints and concerns. For instance, marks close to any apex indicate strongly held opinions, while marks towards the middle suggest indecision or ambiguity. The wording of the triangle's amber corner is intentionally provocative: we'd like those with more specific views to challenge those who put themselves on the fence, as it were, or fail to engage. Managers with something specific to say on this topic have their opportunity to speak up and make their case, while everyone listens and learns - an awareness win, plus a chance for the whole team to review and perhaps refine corporate positions, strategies and policies in this area through discussion and (hopefully!) consensus.

In case it's not immediately obvious, the stimulating approach I've developed and described here is broadly applicable, almost universal. Pick virtually any topic (within or without information risk and security) and context (awareness session, training course, workshop, meeting, online collaboration ...) and it shouldn't be hard to come up with options that fall across a range in one or more dimensions. Assemble a group of interested people to consider and discuss the matters at hand, using visual devices along these lines, and Bob's yer uncle.

Oct 17, 2019

NBlog Oct 17 - managing privacy compliance risks

This week I'm exploring the compliance aspects of privacy for November's security awareness and training module, hunting down information about the meaty fines meted out for privacy incidents breaching GDPR for starters.  

According to what I've read so far, the regulators determine GDPR fines by considering ten specific factors, most of which a proactive management has the capability to control. Management can therefore (to some extent) influence the GDPR penalty part of the business impact of privacy breaches. The speed of response when notified of a breach, for example, is largely determined by the incident management activities. Incident response can be designed and operated to be more efficient and effective, for instance through sensible policies and procedures, coupled with awareness, training and exercises, plus other aspects such as clear roles and responsibilities plus slick incident reporting, escalation and official notification mechanisms. If the organization is primed and ready, it is more likely to react well than if it merely muddles through, unprepared and shambolic.

Furthermore, some of those ten factors concern preventive controls that should reduce the probability of privacy incidents occurring at all - for example, choosing not to process personal information unless necessary (risk avoidance), especially not the highly sensitive types such as medical data (e.g. by outsourcing medical services for employees to specialists who handle the privacy compliance obligations as part of the contract - a form of risk sharing).

In other words, management has some control over both the probability and impact of a potentially significant information risk relating to privacy and compliance. Nice!

Oct 8, 2019

NBlog Oct 8 - 2020 vision

Over the weekend, I wrote about CISOs and ISMs preparing cunning strategies and requesting budgets/proposing investments

During the remainder of 2019, we will be treated/subjected to a number of predictions about what's in store for information security in the year ahead, thanks to a preponderance of Mystic Megs with unsupervised access to the Interweb, gazing wistfully into their crystal balls and pontificating. 

As with horoscopes in the tabloid rags, some of their predix will be right on the button by sheer chance in the sense that, given an ample sufficiency of poo to throw at the wall, some of it will stick. A few more informed pundits, however, will be chucking stickier poo thanks to their experience and insight. 

Trouble is, how are we to distinguish the insightful few with sticky poo from the manifold plain or polished poo propellants?

Years ago, the solution involved tracking or looking back at prior predictions to assess how accurate the pundits were ... although, as with investments, past performance is not necessarily an accurate guide to the future. It's an indicator at best.

These days, the situation is trickier still thanks to the Intarweb, social media and the global information melting-pot that turns pretty much everything into a brown sticky malodorous mess. Independent, honest, experienced, reasonably accurate soothsayers find themselves swimming in an ocean inhabited by marketing whales, a few great whites and vast shoals of me-toos who grasp desperately at any passing thought like a drowning man clutches at a log, only to wring all the life out of it.

So, for what it's worth (almost every penny!), my advice is to consider the credentials of anyone claiming to know what's ahead. Do they know what they speak of? Do they have a clue? Are they usually about right? Do they follow the latest fads, spouting clouds of meaningless drivel from their blow-holes, or are they brave enough to buck the obvious trends, say-it-like-it-is and explain themselves straightforwardly?

And then temper everything with a large dose of good ol' common sense. If your organization is taking its first baby steps into the cloud, guess what: it lacks cloud experience, hence the more extreme cloudiness is likely to be riskier for you than, say, a company that is and has been cloud-first or cloud-everything for years already and knows what it's getting itself into. In other words, choose your battles. Build on your strengths, consider and address your weaknesses. By all means get creative and explore the cutting edge stuff ... but be wary of exposing your jugular to that glinting slicey-slicey sharpness.

Don't neglect your inner-circle of trustworthy advisors, the colleagues and contacts who have proven insightful or at least good listeners in the past ... which hints at a possible strategy for 2020: work hard on bolstering and extending your personal network, ready for your 2021 strategies, proposals and budget requests. The flip side of that ocean of pundits is that it's easier than ever to find potential partners and build relationships. Perhaps even the odd blogger making sense of this turbulent world.

Oct 6, 2019

NBlog Oct 6 - a dozen infosec strategies (amended x2)

This Sunday morning, further to my tips on planning for 2020, prompted by "5 disruptive trends transforming cybersecurity" and fueled by some fine Columbian (coffee not coke!), I've been contemplating information risk and security strategies. Here's a dozen generic strategic approaches to consider:
  1. Use risk to drive security. Instead of vainly hoping to address every risk, hammer the biggest ones, tap at the middling ones and let the little'uns fend for themselves (relying on general purpose controls such as incident and business continuity management, resilience etc.). 'Hammer the biggest' means going the extra mile for 'key' or 'critical' controls addressing 'key' or 'major' or 'bet the farm' risks, and implies substantial effort to identify, understand and evaluate the risks, as well as actually dealing with them.
  2. Make security processes as slick as possible, using automation, simplicity, repeatability etc. DevSecOps is an example of automating security to keep up/catch up with speeding cyclists. SecDevOps could be security attempting to lead the pack (good luck with that!).
  3. Develop security architectures - comprehensive, coherent, all-encompassing approaches, with solid foundations and building blocks that slot into place as the blueprint comes to life. Requires long-term planning and coordination with other architectures and strategies for business, information, IT, risk, compliance, governance etc.
  4. Be business-driven. Let management govern, direct and control things, including cybersecurity, information security, risk and security, or whatever, to enable and deliver business objectives. Encourage and enable management to manage change both reactively and proactively. This strategy requires that management has a decent understanding of the risks and opportunities relating to information security, or at least is well-advised in that area (i.e. manage your managers!).
  5. Make do but improve systematically, in other words take a cold hard look at where you are now, identify the most urgent or serious issues and improvement opportunities, address them. Lather rinse repeat. This may be the only viable approach if management is not interested in being proactive in this area (which might be one of those issues worth tackling!).
  6. Use metrics - specifically, business- and risk-driven metrics - to identify and respond to pain points, trends, imbalances etc., ideally before they become issues. Requires a decent suite of relevant, trustworthy metrics, which implies clarity around the measurement objectives and methods. Also requires enough time to accumulate the data for trends analysis, and sound analysis (e.g. appropriate use of statistics). And beware surrogation.
  7. Employ 'good practices', such as ISO27k, NIST SP800, COBIT, CSA, OWASP and so on ... hinting at the practical issue of deciding which one/s to follow, and to what extent. Standards are often retrospective, out of date by the time they are published but they generally provide a sound basis, and if used sensibly can be a useful shortcut to get basic frameworks (at least) in place. Not so useful, though, if compliance drives the organization rather than the business - another example of surrogation.
  8. Collaborate. Find and work with internal and external resources to get stuff done (implies shared goals). Maybe cloud-first or cloud-only makes perfect sense after all, for your organization - a current-day version of the old 'best of breed', 'best in class' or 'buy blue' mantras - so be sure information risk and security considerations are an integral part of the cloud adoption process. Exploit cloud security services: push security into the cloud.
  9. Focus and simplify. Stop expanding willy-nilly into the cloud without proper planning and preparation, including risk management. Develop an actual strategy, a clear map of the destination/s and routes. Prioritize resources. Find and employ the best people, methods, systems, standards, tools etc. for the most important jobs. Assemble high-performance teams, give them clear goals, motivate them and give them the space to do their thing (possibly within defined boundaries, possibly not).
  10. Fail small and often. Don't just anticipate failure, expect it, relish it even. Recover. Learn. Improve. Try harder. Be experimental. Take (appropriate) risks. Invest unwisely. Default to "yes" rather than "no", ask "why not?" instead of "why?". Practice hard to become excellent at identifying and reacting to risks and opportunities of all kinds. Set things up to spot, flag and react to failures effectively and efficiently. Better still, learn from others' failures: gain without pain.
  11. Figure out and do whatever's best for your organization - perhaps some variant version, a simplification, elaboration or combination of the above or other things unique to your organization, its situation, resources, constraints and objectives. Innovate. Think much further into the future. Imagine! Master the topic. Come up with more creative/unconventional strategies, and evaluate them. Write better lists than this one. Share your thoughts through the comments below, and of course with your work colleagues.
  12. Accept defeat. Follow lamely rather than lead, or get by without a strategy. Pass the buck, exploit scapegoats. Let other suckers path-find. Scrabble desperately to implement the current so-called strategy. Hold the fort. Duck the issues. Keep your head down until your watch is over. Preserve the status quo. Do the least amount possible. Summon and wait for reinforcements. Retire or find another career. Use what little remains of your motivation and self-esteem to apply for jobs at more enlightened organizations. Up-skill. Retrain. Read more than just blogs. Think on. Good luck.
There you go, food for thought I hope as we plummet towards the new year.

PS  Yet another possibility: implement every control recommended by standards and advisories of your choice - essentially information security control catalogs. I can hardly believe it, but I gather some organizations are doing exactly this, for instance, implementing all the controls in Annex A of ISO/IEC 27001. It's much the same as healthy people taking multivitamin pills on the basis that "they won't hurt and might just help" ... misguided at best, wrong-headed and dangerous at worst. Every additional control increases the organization's costs, so it is not good business to attempt to do 'everything' unless 'everything' has benefits that at least offset the costs. Figuring out those costs and benefits is arguably more important than the controls themselves, for both high and low (or negative!) value controls, and comes with a nice bonus: by understanding your information risks, you might just identify the need for additional or variant controls that are not in the control catalogs you are using.

PPS  Consider a super-management-system strategy, aligning or integrating a suite of ISO-style management systems into a coherent whole.  

Oct 4, 2019

NBlog Oct 4 - tips on planning for 2020

The Security Executive Council is a consultancy specializing in physical security for commercial organizations. Their latest newsletter led me to a nice little piece about business cases, including this: 
Brad Brekke, SEC emeritus faculty and former Vice President of Assets Protection and Corporate Security for Target Corporation, emphasizes that the business case must be built upon a deep understanding of the business and security's role and strategy within it. "I'd recommend you conduct this exercise: Study your business. Know how it operates, how it makes money, how it's set up, what its strategy is – for instance, is it a growth strategy, an expense-driven strategy, a service-driven strategy. Know the culture and risk tolerance of your organization and know the voice of its customer," says Brekke.
That approach makes sense for any substantial strategy, change or investment proposal. All organizations exist to achieve [business] objectives, so being clear about how a proposal supports or enables those [business] objectives is a no-brainer, right?

How to do that in practice, however, may not be entirely obvious, especially to specialists/professionals deeply immersed in particular fields such as information risk and security. Our worldview naturally revolves around our own little world. We perceive things in our own terms. We are inevitably biased towards certain aspects that interest and concern us, hence we inevitably emphasize them while downplaying, ignoring or failing even to notice others. 

That's true regardless of the specialism. For instance, HR pros naturally focus on people, sociology, human behaviour and so on. Finance pros focus on dollars and financial risks. IT pros focus on computing and tech. And, guess what, CISOs and ISMs have their focal points and blind-spots too.

The same is also true of other people with whom we interact at work, including those execs who will ultimately make the big decisions about our big proposals, plus assorted managers and [other] specialists beneath who advise and influence them. We all have our interests and prejudices, our personal agendas, hot-buttons and fear-factors. Despite the title, even "general managers" didn't mysteriously parachute-in to the role out of a clear blue sky but worked their way through the educational system, the ranks and the University of Life, picking up skills and experiences along the way, shaping their personalities today.

So, when proposing something, awareness of our own biases plus those of our audiences (for there are several) presents the opportunity to counteract them on both sides. 

The SEC piece, for instance, offers this advice:
Brekke also cautions security leaders not to undervalue the importance of storytelling. Each organization has a language that resonates with management. Consider the language of the brand and the language of the organization's business as you develop the story you will tell and as you make your business case. You may find it helpful to reframe some security language to better reflect business value. For instance, because one of Target's foundational goals was to focus on the experience of the customer, conversations about shoplifting became conversations about enabling the guest experience.
That's the no-brainer business-focused approach I mentioned earlier, and fair enough: it's not unreasonable to expect everyone in an organization to share a common interest in furthering the organization's business aims. At an overall level, being business-focused makes perfect sense. However, there's more to it in that 'the organization' is, in reality, an assortment of individuals with distinct personalities. 

So, I recommend a more granular, more mature approach. Rather than simply preparing and submitting a business-like proposal then expecting 'the organization' or 'management' to approve it, consider the individual people who will make the decisions, plus those who advise and influence them. Ideally, spend quality time with them during the drafting process, explaining what you are hoping to achieve and finding out what they want or expect or fear from it. Explain things in their terms, if you can. As Brad suggests, use pertinent examples that resonate with them. Tease out their concerns, and emphasize the benefits for them and their areas of interest, plus others (it's perfectly OK to bring up the wider perspective, including opinions and concerns raised by various colleagues). Try not to leave things hanging in mid-air: where relevant, revise your proposals to take account of the feedback and let them know you have done so. Reassure them that you have genuinely responded to their suggestions - even if that means compromising or, on occasions, rejecting them due to competing pressures. This is a negotiation process, so negotiate towards agreement. If it helps, you can even quote those feedback comments, partly because of what they say and partly to demonstrate that you have both listened and reacted.

For bonus marks, collaborate with your colleagues from the outset. Develop joint proposals with other departments. Drive out extra value by optimising your approaches, addressing multiple objectives simultaneously. Work as a team.

Now is an excellent time of year to put this approach into practice as most organizations head rapidly towards the new financial year, hence strategies, initiatives, priorities and budgets are all up for discussion. If your normal approach is head-down, focused on building what you believe to be the best possible business cases and proposals in isolation, then lift your head from the page for once. Consider who your proposals will affect, and go see them for a chat - now, well before the ink is dry. I promise you, it's time well spent. You'll markedly improve your chances of success.

It works both ways too. If, say, Marketing is lining-up for a substantial investment, initiative or change of approach, get actively engaged with the formulation of their proposal concerning the information risk and security aspects. Find out what they are on about. Consider the implications. Where appropriate, push for changes and make concessions to them in return for their support for your objectives and proposals, and vice versa, all the while circling around those common business objectives. 'What's best for the business' is a particularly compelling perspective, hard to argue against. Plotting the best route is easier if everyone is heading for the same destination.