In 1991 Charles Cresson Wood wrote an article entitled ‘Using Information Security to Achieve Competitive Advantages’. He would later become the recipient of the Computer Security Institutes Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2004, at its worldwide partner conference, Microsoft pitched security as a competitive advantage. Now seven years later, how has information technology security affected businesses and has it indeed proved to be a competitive advantage?
With the rising power and influence of the Chief Information Officer, it seems Cressen’s observations and Microsoft’s pitch was right on target. Information is just as valuable as the money managed by the Chief Financial Officer, and protecting that information is a competitive advantage.
Protecting your IT assets should be your number one priority in business, and information and technology are part of these recognized assets. To be a savvy competitor in your market, your organisation should be as protective of its innovations and ideas as it is of its financials.
Ways to ensure security can be simple, including virus protection software and email safety (i.e. deleting archived messages and attachments), setting up firewalls and keeping software systems up-to-date.
Secure your networks using full encryption when connecting remotely and lock down wireless networks. Other tips include backing up securely and frequently, protecting your office premises and taking extra steps to ensure the safety or your laptop and other mobile devices.
When it comes down to it, digital security keeps information from leaking into the hands of the competition. It may be a costly initiative, and one that requires consistent attention and upgrading. However, the payoff is a simple and concrete benefit: IT security can protect your intellectual property from willing adversaries, disgruntled employees and cutthroat competitors.
The competitive advantages of IT security are not easily measurable – and nor is the risk that your business may face. In order to take stock of the risks and reap the rewards, avoid using terms such as “monetary” and “measurable” and focus on competitive advantage, long-term survival and compliance.