Why Your Security Assessment Recommendations Get Ignored

If you’ve ever performed a security assessment, you probably know the frustration of seeing your earnest recommendations get ignored. You may wonder whether the recipient even read your report. If they did, surely they would share your concerns regarding the risks you discovered.

You might be able to do something about this situation if you understand why security assessment findings are often dismissed:

  • Maybe your report was never read. There could be many reasons for this, including the reader commissioning the assessment to merely mark-off a checkbox to say it was done. Another reason might be that the report was too long, seemed too technical or too high-level, or was otherwise poorly written.
  • The reader may not have believed you. Perhaps you didn’t provide enough evidence to support your conclusions. Even if you were thorough, people often ignore the arguments that go against their point of view. As the result, your readers might have interpreted your findings in a way favorable to themselves, or disagreed with the recommendations that went against their point of view.
  • Possibly, the organization hasn’t gotten around to acting upon your recommendations. IT personnel tends to get caught up fighting fires: responding to emergency issues, fixing problems and otherwise doing unplanned work. This might not leave time for remediating security issues right away. Sadly, sometimes remediation doesn’t happen until a security incident.
  • Perhaps the advice in your report wasn’t practical. You meant well when you advised removing administrative rights from all user accounts, but the security leader might not have had the political power to pull that off. Or maybe you emphasized only the important strategic issues that were too hard to handle without starting with easier, more tactical wins.

As you can see, some of the factors that affect whether the organization will follow your recommendations aren’t under your control. Yet, you can increase the likelihood that your findings will be acted upon if you write a strong report, offer practical advice, substantiate your findings, and balance tactical and strategic recommendations.

For more on the topic of delivering better security assessments, see my cheat sheet with Tips for Creating a Strong Cybersecurity Assessment Report.

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About the Author

Lenny Zeltser develops teams, products, and programs that use information security to achieve business results. Over the past two decades, Lenny has been leading efforts to establish resilient security practices and solve hard security problems. As a respected author and speaker, he has been advancing cybersecurity tradecraft and contributing to the community. His insights build upon 20 years of real-world experiences, a Computer Science degree from the University of Pennsylvania, and an MBA degree from MIT Sloan.

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