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Heads of information security functions are more likely to be business managers than techies in future as companies take a more strategic approach that balances IT security threats against business drivers. That's according to analyst house Gartner which predicts security will evolve into an element of a wider risk management strategy.

It reckons the days of security people blocking projects without considering the wider picture are numbered. "Business lives by risk. But the concept of 'acceptable risk' is an oxymoron to many security professionals," said Paul Proctor, research vice president with Gartner’s Information Security Group. He explained that large organisations thrive by having a developed understanding of risk, and by accepting it when it offers a business advantage.

Instead of the ability to scare budgets out of chief information security officers, a future risk management officer will be well-versed in communication and project management skills and more likely to have trained in business school than as a techie. This will leave technical staff unable to rise beyond a certain position in their company unless they get a business degree.

"The ability to determine what constitutes risk, and the requirement to report that risk to executive decision makers, can be a highly political activity requiring excellent written and oral communication skills with a good knowledge of business. Generally, these skills have been lacking in traditional technically-oriented information security specialists," Proctor added.

"The days of security being handled by the 'network person' who did security in their spare time are over and increasingly we are seeing seasoned professionals with real business experience and business school qualifications stepping into the security space."

Business people also need to adapt and realise the security cannot be achieved by technology and needs to be built into a corporate culture. This will require cultural, behavioural, procedural and technical change, according to Gartner.

Proctor made his comments during a presentation at the Gartner IT Security Summit in London on Wednesday. ®

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