Real Research or a Marketing Ploy?

Opinion: Survey on the effects of regulatory compliance on IT security might provide interesting results but won't inform respondents.

The impact of regulatory compliance on IT security is nearly impossible to measure accurately. However, a research survey launched on Aug. 24 by BindView Corp., The Institute of Internal Auditors and the Computer Security Institute purports to get a baseline assessment of just that.

I think the survey results will be interesting—especially to auditors and vendors with compliance products to sell—but Im not sure how much the survey respondents will actually get out of the process.

The survey is active now, and I want to preserve the sample selected by the surveys sponsors, so I wont provide the URL here.

I will say that the survey is designed for CSOs, is composed of 30 questions—mostly multiple choice—and is comprehensive in covering all the regulatory bodies that are currently picking over corporate IT and finance departments.

There are two problems with the survey from the point of view of the CSO who is being asked to submit answers. The first is that the survey appears to lack a systematic method for eliciting the actual number of staff hours that are expended to comply with various aspects of complying with regulations. The second problem, as I said above, is that it will likely provide very little real benefit to participants.

Companies that have stringent regulatory responsibilities assigned to them by law already know what they are supposed to be doing. This means that the respondents providing data to the third-party sponsors of the research survey wont be getting anything more valuable than that an affirmative response that various businesses in the sample indeed must comply with this or that specific rule.

/zimages/3/28571.gifZotob worm suspects arrested. Click here to read more.

In areas of the survey where less is known about the actual requirements of an audit—a common complaint about Sarbanes-Oxley—it appears that, for the time being, its probably enough to demonstrate that a system of controls is in place.

When it comes to making decisions about how to comply with regulatory mandates, having more and better information is always better than getting less and poor-quality data. However, the survey I got in my e-mail appears to be a survey of potential customers, rather than an unbiased research tool that will shed light on the best way for companies to meet their responsibilities under the law.

eWEEK Labs Technical Director Cameron Sturdevant can be reached at

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