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You Cannot Outsource Accountability

By Mike Rothman

Given our severe skills gap in security, managed services and other security outsourcing tactics continue to be very interesting to end users. Either that, or non-security senior management gets frustrated by the inability of the internal team to get anything done, so they look at having someone else take a crack. As the NSS folks ask in their blog post, To Outsource or Not to Outsource, That is the Question!, but I don’t think that’s the right question.

It’s really more about what they can outsource, not whether to outsource at all. Although their first sentence does irk me:

Is it a good thing that one of the fastest growing segments in the field of information security revolves around surrendering control of your security to another party?

That accountability thing is a bummer...Surrendering control? Really? That kind of attitude will get you killed. If there is one thing I have learned over the years, it was from cleaning up roadkill from security folks who bought the hype, and believed that a service provider would solve all their problems. But you can’t outsource accountability. Then NSS went on to categorize some decision points for selecting a provider. And depending on what you are asking the provider to do, there are various nuances to making that selection. That’s fine.

But ultimately there must be someone inside the organization responsible for the security program. Really responsible, and empowered to make decisions. That person is responsible for allocating resources to get the job done. That could mean using internal staff, deploying technology, leveraging managed services, or deeper outsourcing. I am not religious about any specific mix, but I am about the need for someone on internal to make those decisions.

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