Security threats are continuously evolving. From cyber criminals targeting digital assets through a security breach to attempting to execute a cyber-attack with plans to extort the organization, the importance of keeping your digital security infrastructure secure is more vital now than ever. To strengthen its integrity, organizations should begin utilizing Six Sigma for all levels of their security.
How Do Six Sigma & Security Align?
First, it’s important to understand what exactly Six Sigma is. In its most basic form, Six Sigma can be defined as management techniques intended to enhance business processes by reducing the risk of error. But how does that align with security? Well again, in its most basic context, data security is in place to maintain the safety and security of an organization’s digital assets.
Given that there are data security protocols and processes in place, it would make sense to utilize Six Sigma to enhance those processes to reduce the risk of security threats in all capacities. By implementing one of the primary methodologies of Six Sigma, DMAIC, individuals can break down security processes to determine any weak points. From there, they can take proactive measures to reduce the threat windows and keep their data secure.
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DMAIC, Six Sigma, & Security
The Six Sigma methodology, DMAIC, is primarily used for optimizing current business processes. The DMAIC method is broken down into five steps: Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control. Data is an essential component of business operations, and these five steps can be applied to any data security processes that are already in place. By implementing the DMAIC method into data security practices and protocols, the organization is able to better understand the whys behind what is done at an organizational level regarding data security, identify any weak points, and mitigate overall risks.
Define the problem and the project goals
Before you can solve something, you must first identify the problem. At times, these problems will be reactive, for instance, the organization suffered a security breach, and they are now trying to strengthen its digital security to prevent future breaches. Or some organizations may be taking proactive measures to close security vulnerabilities found during a security risk assessment. These problems can be as granular as a single process, or an entire overview of the data security processes as a whole.
If the organization has yet to utilize Six Sigma in its data security practices, an entire overview is recommended. As the company works through each of the five steps, additional problems may come to light. These are often more specific to individual protocols and processes. When this happens, specific project goals can be established for each.
Once the overall problem has been identified, project goals must be established. You cannot define success without an end goal in mind.
Measure the various aspects of the current process in detail
This requires an in-depth analysis that often begins with initial process mapping. For the sake of consistency, let’s say this is an organization that is just beginning to implement Six Sigma into its data security processes. When the organization begins process mapping, the map style may start with a basic flowchart to look at security procedures.
As these processes are being mapped out, the individuals developing the map must understand how the process flows from beginning to end. Furthermore, staff members must understand the reasoning behind the current process. There may be instances where a different process, at face value, makes more sense; however, without discussing the rationale behind the current protocols, changes may take place that reduce efficiency and effectiveness.
To fully utilize this methodology of Six Sigma, parties must have full, in-depth knowledge of the processes, their flows, why they work the way they do, and how they can be optimized.
Analyze the data to find the root defects in a process
At this point, you have identified the problems and goals and gathered a full understanding of the procedures with the use of process mapping. Now, you must aggregate data to find the root defects in the process. Those taking part in DMAIC to optimize security processes will likely have a general idea regarding what the root problem is.
At times, organizations may already have an accurate understanding of what the defects are within their systems, but they don’t know how to address them. For instance, they may be fully aware that their operating systems are outdated, or that they need to add a layered approach to their existing security stack. Utilizing DMAIC allows the organization’s key decision-makers to fully understand why this issue is present, and what processes need to be considered before implementations can take place.
Gathering data to determine what threats are posed, how they can be mitigated, and the likelihood of the integrity of the security infrastructure being compromised, as a result, are all key elements of this phase. Taking it a step further, it is important for all relevant parties to understand the data that has been aggregated, as well as how best to move forward.
When gathering this data, not only are root issues determined, but individuals will be better equipped to find the solutions to improve the process.
Improve the process
Keeping the long-term goals in mind, as well as the data aggregated in the previous step, individuals can now consider solutions for the root defects. This could be the use of AI in cybersecurity, moving to a multi-factor authentication approach (MFA), or data encryption. Ultimately, it will be contingent upon the company’s defined problems, goals, and root defects.
Decision makers should keep in mind several things when improving their processes, like the employee’s experience. Understandably, security should not be compromised. Just because two-factor authentication may seem inconvenient, it should not be dismissed. However, when processes are being changed it is important to consider all employees involved. Additionally, decision-makers should consider pricing and potential integrations with current software.
To get all employees on board with the changes that will directly impact them, it is vital to educate them on the reasoning behind the change. For instance, if MFA is implemented it may impact their access or basic login process. If employees feel the pain points of this without understanding why, they will resist, find workarounds, and the entire process is undermined. However, if staffers are aware that this new process heightens data security, reduces the risk of a data breach, improves the organization’s reputation as a whole, and impacts the bottom dollar – in turn potentially impacting their wages, they’ll implement these changes. Why? Because they now understand what’s in it for them.
If the company loses seven figures due to a malware attack that stops productivity and revenues, its year-end bonuses are impacted. Or if reputational damages have a long-term impact on the company after a data breach, layoffs may be necessary. These examples may seem extreme but consider this. 99.9% of businesses in America are small businesses, and when a small business suffers a cyber-attack, 60% of them close their doors within six months of the incident. Knowing this, these examples no longer seem too extreme.
There are several things to consider when implementing a new process and/or software, such as the user experience, pricing, and potential integration with existing solutions.
Control how the process is done in the future
After completing the first four steps of DMAIC the final, and perhaps the most important phase is implementing policies to ensure the new process is executed not only now, but in the future as well. The reality is a complete audit has taken place of the entire data security process. The organization now knows its strengths, and weaknesses, and has a plan and processes in place to mitigate the risks. This overall bolsters the integrity of the security infrastructure. If policies are not in place to maintain these new processes, the organization will find itself in a compromising position far too soon.
Creating policies to ensure not only the processes are taking place, but that employees are adhering to these new security protocols will be important. By getting all staff members on board with the new processes as quickly and efficiently as possible, the security vulnerabilities will be mitigated. This alone reduces the risk of falling victim to cybersecurity threats, which if executed, will significantly impact company revenues due to lost productivity, downtime, restoration costs, reputational damages, and more.
Establishing policies to ensure the new processes are implemented both currently and moving forward is the final element of the DMAIC process.
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Six Sigma has been proven to be an effective methodology for enhancing business practices across all departments in a multitude of sectors. Implementing this same approach when reviewing and enhancing security practices, will not only bolster the integrity of the security infrastructure but also produce an immediate reduction in risks to the organization’s bottom dollar.
This article is written by Aaron Smith. Aaron is an LA-based content strategist and consultant in support of STEM firms and digital transformation consulting companies. He covers industry developments and helps companies connect with clients. In his free time, Aaron enjoys swimming, swing dancing, and sci-fi novels.