5 Reasons the Service Desk Should Care About Information Security

ITSM thought leader and security consultant Stuart Rance shares his insights on why the service desk needs to prioritize information security.

You’ll learn that:

Everyone’s responsible for IT security.
Service desks are IT’s eyes and ears.
Service desks can communicate information security messages to users.
Service desks have a major role to play in security incident management.

Want to learn more?

5 Reasons the Service  
Desk Should Care About  
Information Security  
By Stuart Rance, ITSM and security consultant  
In many organizations there is a separate information security team that deals with all things  
relating to security. This team is responsible for designing and implementing all the controls  
needed to protect the organization, and for managing all major security incidents. So why  
does the service desk need to be involved, and what contribution should it make?  
Here are five reasons that you should consider:  
. Everyone’s Responsible for Security  
security, also known simply as InfoSec, isn’t just  
about process controls or technology controls that  
we can delegate to the InfoSec team and then ignore  
unless they affect us directly. Good information  
security depends on a good balance between  
people, process, and technology controls, where the  
people controls affect a broad range of personnel  
in the organization – all of whom need to take some  
responsibility for security.  
devices such as laptops, tablets, and smartphones  
should be managed  
Password management policies – how often  
you have to change your password, rules about  
how passwords are made up, and whether you’re  
allowed to record passwords  
Remote working policy – rules for how people  
should work from remote locations, such as their  
home or a hotel room  
Information classification and handling  
policies – how documents and other  
information should be classified, labelled,  
and handled; for example: certain types of  
information may not be transferred out of a  
secure location, other types of information  
must always be encrypted, etc.  
Service desk agents, like everyone else  
in the organization, need to know what  
information security policies apply to them,  
and need to take responsibility for following  
these policies. Typical policies that everyone  
needs to follow include:  
Visitor policies – how visitors to your site  
should be managed  
Acceptable use policies – what you are allowed  
to do with email, social media, the company  
network, etc.  
Your organization probably has lots more InfoSec  
policies that should be followed by all staff, so you  
need to find out what they are, and make sure your  
service desk staff understand and follow them.  
Mobile device or BYOD policies – how personal  
2. Service Desks Are the Eyes and Ears of IT  
Major security breaches at some organizations have  
remained undiscovered for many months, during  
which time the attackers have been able to make off  
with vast amounts of highly confidential data. Early  
detection is crucial.  
For example, issues such as users  
being locked out of their accounts for  
no obvious reason, data being deleted  
or data integrity being compromised,  
and performance problems due to  
unusual system and network usage  
Your service desk is the main interface between the IT  
organization and the people who use your IT services.  
This means people who work on the service desk  
are uniquely placed to understand what is happening  
within your user community. If they are appropriately  
trained, they can be a first line of defense against  
many potential security breaches.  
can all be early signs of something more serious. If  
your service desk staff have been trained to consider  
such issues, they may notice the very early signs of  
an attack and escalate this to the appropriate InfoSec  
team. By helping you to identify security incidents  
quickly, your service desk can help change a major  
incident into something more manageable.  
. Service Desks Can Communicate Information Security Messages to Users  
The service desk is in regular contact with users, and  
you can use this as an opportunity to communicate  
essential InfoSec messages, to reinforce other  
training and awareness activity.  
could include a permanent message, with the email  
you send asking a user to complete a post incident  
survey, about never sharing passwords.  
This is a great opportunity for service desk  
management to collaborate with InfoSec staff,  
planning how they can help communicate essential  
messages, and building relationships.  
For example, you could put a banner message on  
your self-help portal reminding people never to  
copy confidential data to portable media, or you  
4. Service Desks Have a Major Role to Play in Security Incident Management  
Most organizations have a security incident  
management process that is designed to:  
Log, track, and manage security incidents  
Escalate security incidents to people with  
appropriate skills and management responsibility  
Triage incidents and implement an initial response  
to contain the damage and stop it from spreading  
Ensure that confidential information about security  
incidents is suitably protected  
Preserve evidence that may be needed in case of  
legal or regulatory involvement  
Investigate and resolve security incidents  
Communicate with stakeholders such as police,  
regulatory authorities, shareholders, and the press  
The service desk is often the first place to become  
aware of security incidents, so they have a major  
role in this process flow. In some organizations, the  
service desk will also be responsible for logging,  
tracking, escalating, and managing security incidents.  
In all cases, the service desk should be involved in  
the rehearsals and simulations, to ensure that they  
know what is expected, and to make sure they get it  
right when a real attack happens.  
Carry out post incident reviews to learn from the  
security incident  
It’s very hard to get all of these things right without  
practice, so a good InfoSec team will run rehearsals  
and simulations to ensure that everyone involved  
is ready and able to take the right action when an  
incident happens.  
Reasons the Service Desk Should Care About Information Security  
. Service Desk Staff Are Role Models  
Service desk staff deal with users when things aren’t  
working properly, giving advice and asking questions.  
It is important that they are trained to do this in a way  
that demonstrates behaviors you want to encourage,  
and avoids any behaviors you want to discourage.  
There are still some  
organizations where the  
service desk staff need  
to ask users for their  
passwords, in order to  
troubleshoot incidents or to  
If service desk staff ask users for their passwords,  
then this implies that it’s acceptable to share  
passwords, which may later make it easier for  
an attacker to trick people into giving out their  
passwords. If service desk staff send executable files  
by email, or ask users to click on a link to sign in to  
their accounts, then this will make those users more  
likely to fall for a phishing attack.  
build new computer systems. If this is your situation,  
then you urgently need to get new tools and redesign  
your process so that you can stop doing it. You  
can’t afford to consistently demonstrate the wrong  
behavior to your users, because it encourages them  
to do the wrong thing too. After all, you don’t really  
want train your users to give out their passwords to  
anyone who sounds sufficiently plausible, do you?  
Don’t just leave information security to your InfoSec team. Your service  
desk staff can play a big role in helping to protect your information if  
you give them the skills, knowledge, tools, and training they need to  
play their part.  
Want to hear how SysAid can help with your cybersecurity issues?  
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