Why Enterprise Architecture Deserves a Seat at the Security Table

by Zak Cole       • September 21, 2017

The personal data of more than 143 million people – half the United States’ entire population – may have been compromised in the recent Equifax data breach. With every major data breach comes post-mortems and lessons learned, but one area we haven’t seen discussed is how enterprise architecture might aid in the prevention of data breaches.

For Equifax, the reputational hit, loss of profits/market value, and potential lawsuits is really bad news. For other organizations that have yet to suffer a breach, be warned. The clock is ticking for the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to take effect in May 2018. GDPR changes everything, and it’s just around the corner.

Organizations of all sizes must take greater steps to protect consumer data or pay significant penalties. Negligent data governance and data management could cost up to 4 percent of an organization’s global annual worldwide turnover or up to 20 million Euros, whichever is greater.

With this in mind, the Equifax data breach – and subsequent lessons – is a discussion potentially worth millions.

Enterprise architecture for security

Proactive Data Protection and Cybersecurity

Given that data security has long been considered paramount, it’s surprising that enterprise architecture is one approach to improving data protection that has been overlooked.

It’s a surprise because when you consider enterprise architecture use cases and just how much of an organization it permeates (which is really all of it), EA should be commonplace in data security planning.

So, the Equifax breach provides a great opportunity to explore how enterprise architecture could be used for improving cybersecurity.

Security should be proactive, not reactive, which is why EA should be a huge part of security planning. And while we hope the Equifax incident isn’t the catalyst for an initial security assessment and improvements, it certainly should prompt a re-evaluation of data security policies, procedures and technologies.

By using well-built enterprise architecture for the foundation of data security, organizations can help mitigate risk. EA’s comprehensive view of the organization means security can be involved in the planning stages, reducing risks involved in new implementations. When it comes to security, EA should get a seat at the table.

Enterprise architecture also goes a long way in nullifying threats born of shadow IT, out-dated applications, and other IT faux pas. Well-documented, well-maintained EA gives an organization the best possible view of current tech assets.

This is especially relevant in Equifax’s case as the breach has been attributed to the company’s failure to update a web application although it had sufficient warning to do so.

By leveraging EA, organizations can shore up data security by ensuring updates and patches are implemented proactively.

Enterprise Architecture, Security and Risk Management

But what about existing security flaws? Implementing enterprise architecture in security planning now won’t solve them.

An organization can never eliminate security risks completely. The constantly evolving IT landscape would require businesses to spend an infinite amount of time, resources and money to achieve zero risk. Instead, businesses must opt to mitigate and manage risk to the best of their abilities.

Therefore, EA has a role in risk management too.

In fact, EA’s risk management applications are more widely appreciated than its role in security. But effective EA for risk management is a fundamental part of how EA for implementing security works.

Enterprise architecture’s comprehensive accounting of business assets (both technological and human) means it’s best placed to align security and risk management with business goals and objectives. This can give an organization insight into where time and money can best be spent in improving security, as well as the resources available to do so.

This is because of the objective view enterprise architecture analysis provides for an organization.

To use somewhat of a crude but applicable analogy, consider the risks of travel. A fear of flying is more common than fear of driving in a car. In a business sense, this could unwarrantedly encourage more spending on mitigating the risks of flying. However, an objective enterprise architecture analysis would reveal, that despite fear, the risk of travelling by car is much greater.

Applying the same logic to security spending, enterprise architecture analysis would give an organization an indication of how to prioritize security improvements.

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