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What does the collaborative economy mean for information security?

Ben Rothke CISSP, senior eGRC Consultant with Nettitude, Inc. | March 10, 2015
But what if the dynamic changed such that employees could use corporate and office items for their personal profit? Most firms have never thought about the concept and certainly have no processes in place to deal with it. But that’s something CIO’s and CISO’s should think about in 2015, as the collaborative economy will be changing that dynamic.

Lisa Gansky is the author of The Mesh: Why the Future of Business Is Sharing Hardcover, a manifesto of the collaborative economy. She writes that fundamentally, the Mesh (another term for the collaborative economy) is based on network-enabled sharing -- on access -- rather than on ownership. The central strategy is, in effect, to sell the same product multiple times; something Airbnb, Lending Club, Netflix and ZipCar has done. Multiple sales multiply profits and customer contacts. Multiple contacts multiply opportunity for additional sales, for strengthening a brand, for improving a competitive service, and for deepening and extending the relationship with the customer.

Gansky also noted that 2010 was the first time that more people lived in urban areas than in rural areas. More people in tighter spaces invites sharing and collaboration. Similarly, from a technology perspective, everything is getting smaller, cheaper and more powerful.

In natural systems, waste is never wasted. In nature, waste from one system is food for another. The challenge in business is how to retrieve value from waste of all types, such as idle cars or equipment. It's finding valued products (or their composite materials), that can be repaired or mined rather than earmarked for the dump. The Mesh invites and enables the recovery of that waste as value.

Using sophisticated information systems, the Mesh also deploys physical assets more efficiently. Not always and not for everything, these networks or platforms that manage shared transactions has the growing capacity to soar past a company that sells something once to one owner. Everyone reaps the rewards of dramatically improved service and choice at a lower personal and planetary cost.

Collaborative economy and information security

So what does the collaborative economy have to do with information security and risk? A lot.

There are numerous security questions in the collaborative economy if everyone's sharing goods, space time and money.

Your workers can now take idle systems, be it in IT, facilities, servers, hotel rooms, office space, you name it and rent it out. CFO out on vacation for the week, office space sold.

However, now that many are sharing space, time, cars, goods and money, how will we provide a secure and safe environment?

Even with the security risks, it's important to note that there are many benefits to the enterprise in the collaborative economy. Employees can share corporate cars, assets and more. This has opportunity as much as it has risk. The challenge is finding the balance.

Action items

Here are some things to do:


The collaborative economy is growing quickly and unless something unexpected happens, it won't be stopping anytime soon.

As a security professional, keep that in mind.


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