Most firms don’t coordinate security planning

Despite the potentially crippling impact of security events on corporate performance, many executives report that their security function is not well coordinated with enterprise risk management or a similar risk function, The Conference Board reports.

The report, Preparedness in the Private Sector – 2011, is based on a survey of 263 executives from companies of different sizes and industries on how they approach resilience and security. It examined security planning and programs in five key areas: physical security, IT security, business continuity, crisis management, and pandemic planning.

Only about half of surveyed executives said IT security, business continuity, and crisis management at their company were “completely” or “very coordinated” with ERM/risk management, while only 43 percent said the same about physical security. “Companies need to reconsider the scope and operating procedures of their ERM program to ensure it is integrated with the company’s efforts to manage potentially catastrophic security risks,” the report notes.

Other survey findings:

Achieving resilience requires a community-wide focus. Few companies have coordinated their resilience planning with other stakeholders such as telecommunications companies, local fire departments, companies that manage the electrical grid, and local police departments. Many companies will need to do a better job of coordinating more closely with other stakeholders in the community before they can be considered truly resilient.

Few companies have a security function that encompasses all five security-related activities. Most have three of the five security-related activities – physical security (80 percent), IT security (72 percent), and business continuity (67 percent). However, only 21 percent of companies have a security function that includes all five areas.

Many executives report that senior management is not actively involved in overseeing security activities. A lack of senior management engagement led the list of significant challenges in implementing an effective security program. In order to create a security-conscious culture, this needs to come from the top down. Employees will not consider security to be a priority unless senior management is actively involved.

Many companies fail to regularly test security. When asked what procedures their company follows at least once a year, only 54 percent of companies tested their backup facilities annually, 50 percent conducted tabletop exercises, 41 percent conducted exercises for senior executives, and only 29 percent had “work at home” days to ensure the company can continue to operate by having employees work remotely if necessary. “Companies need to run such tests and exercises at least annually to ensure their security procedures are working smoothly and that employees understand their responsibilities in case of an emergency,” the report notes.