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Security SWOT Analysis: Strategy, Influence & Examples

Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

A SWOT analysis is a useful tool for strategic planning in information security as well as business. In this lesson, you'll learn more about this tool and how it can be used to develop information security strategies.

Identifying the Good and the Bad

Roger is opening a new business and knows nothing about information security - except that it's important. He has enlisted the help of his college roommate, a self-described ''IT nerd'' to help him work through where he needs to put his focus. His buddy recommends they do a SWOT analysis in order to take a look at the big picture. Roger is familiar with SWOT analysis from some of his business classes. But, how can he turn this business tool into a targeted departmental analysis?

Defining SWOT

It's a funny-sounding name with a serious purpose: SWOT analysis. But, what is it? SWOT represents four important topics when businesses are concerned:

  • The strengths they possess
  • The weaknesses they need to address
  • The opportunities present
  • And, the external threats they face

A SWOT analysis is useful in helping an organization select and implement its business strategy and engage in strategic planning. What can the company accomplish in the next year? What does the company need to look out for? Typically, it is displayed as a rectangle with four quadrants, each quadrant representing one of the four categories. This can either be drawn on paper or presented on a whiteboard so that an entire group can participate in the analysis.


A SWOT analysis displays the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of a business or specific department.
SWOT, analysis, security, information


Now, you may be asking yourself, what's that got to do with information security strategy? It sounds like something that a business performs at a very high level to determine the direction the company will take.

SWOT in Information Security

In information security, a SWOT analysis can be useful for developing a better understanding of the security environment. It can also support the business' overarching strategy by giving insight into security assets, risks, issues, and challenges that the information technology department - and thus, the business as a whole - will be faced with.

Think about SWOT analysis with an information security focus and you might come up with something like this:

  • Strengths:
    • strong data encryption practices
    • regularly updated antivirus software
    • robust access policy
  • Weaknesses:
    • lack of a written security plan
    • spotty update process for security patches
    • poor security funding
  • Opportunities:
    • options for cloud storage for data, keeping information secure and backed up off-site
  • Threats:
    • environmental concerns such as flooding or fire
    • computer viruses
    • hacking attempts
    • non-compliance with regulations

These are, of course, different from what a marketing department's SWOT analysis might look like or the overall SWOT analysis for the business, but they can help guide the formulation of the organization's information security strategy - and strengthen the business in the process!

Implications for Strategy Development

Now, let's take a look at how a SWOT analysis in information security can help influence high-level strategic objectives. We'll use an example of a fictional real estate firm we'll call OnTrack Realty.

OnTrack Realty has approximately 200 agents and three offices. The agents are often on the road or showing houses to clients or meeting them off-site at coffee shops. As such, they utilize their own laptops and mobile devices. The company uses a cloud provider where all employees can store their contracts, photos, and files. And, they've just hired a savvy IT coordinator for an in-house position to service on-site employees and their devices, as well as being a resource for those who choose to work remotely. They are hopeful he can design and implement a formal security policy for the company.

From this information, we can fill in the quadrants in the SWOT analysis:

Strengths

  • IT coordinator brings greater focus to the company's security as a priority
  • Cloud service for better management of data, which also keeps it backed up
  • Employees operate on devices they're most comfortable with

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