Convincing Organizations to Say “Yes to InfoSec”

By Jon-Michael C. Brook, Principal, Guide Holdings, LLC

security turned on in smartphoneSecurity departments have their hands full. The first half of my career was government-centric, and we always seemed to be the “no” team, eliminating most initiatives before they started. The risks were often found to outweigh the benefits, and unless there was a very strong executive sponsor, say the CEO or Sector President, the ideas would be shelved.

More recently, as a response to the security “no” team, IT staff started several “Shadow IT” projects. People began using cloud computing systems and pay-as-you-go strategies on a corporate credit card to quickly develop and roll-out projects before anyone in security could get a word in.

These “beg forgiveness” aspects hamstrung security on several projects, especially if a data leakage incident occurred or breach was in progress. What’s more, we weren’t unique in seeing shadow projects. These projects increasingly become the norm as IT staff looking to move initiatives forward come up against cybersecurity professionals hell-bent on maintaining security and, who know that in the event of a breach, heads could easily roll. Most likely theirs.

Tired of being seen as the “no” team? Here are three ideas that could reshape the value of security to your company as a whole:

Demonstrate Trust

Trust messages needs to come from outside of the department, even if it’s ghostwritten or created internally. Be it the CTO, CFO or CEO, there needs to be a bit of understanding that risk comes in many forms, and the Security Department takes all of those into account before approving or denying projects.

Many compliance frameworks have an HR or training domain, and some security departments successfully use this for mandatory training for topics like phishing. When a non-infosec colleague clicks on a fake attack, the trust point may be reiterated with a reminder of example fines and the costs. Breach notifications or PCI violations aren’t cheap after all.

Show Security as a Business Enabler

Share a couple of department wins, where the security team found involvement early in the process and added value to the program deployed. Look for examples like oAuth or Single Sign On (SSO) simplifying a portal’s usage or a project where business continuity planning or encryption helped pass an acceptance audit.

Demonstrating that security builds team success and is no longer the “no” department pays dividends.

Provide Educational Incentives

Lastly, extend the educational aspect beyond testing for ignorance. See if your organization offers reimbursement or even bonuses for security certifications, and stand-up internal lunch-and-learn or video conference preparation sessions. If your organization doesn’t provide an across-the-board financial incentive, maybe fund a raffle for five of the folks who pass the test to receive a spot bonus.

Hopefully, you’ll find these as an opportunity to impress upon the rest of the corporation the importance of the CISO’s office. There’s a long history of “no;” without efforts on the infosec staff’s part, that image will linger well past its truth.

Jon-Michael C. Brook, Principal at Guide Holdings, LLC, has 20 years of experience in information security with such organizations as Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, Booz Allen Hamilton, Optiv Security and Symantec. He is co-chair of CSA’s Top Threats Working Group and the Cloud Broker Working Group, and contributor to several additional working groups. Brook is a Certified Certificate of Cloud Security Knowledge+ (CCSK+) trainer and Cloud Controls Matrix (CCM) reviewer and trainer.

Avoiding Cyber Fatigue in Four Easy Steps

By Jon-Michael C. Brook, Principal, Guide Holdings, LLC

coffee cup by an IT worker's screen indicating cyber fatigueCyber alert fatigue. In the cybersecurity space, it is inevitable. Every day, there will be a new disclosure, a new hack, a new catchy title for the latest twist on an old attack sequence. As a 23-year practitioner, the burnout is a real thing, and it unfortunately comes in waves. You’ll stay up on the latest and greatest for months on end. Take a couple weeks off at the wrong time of year, maybe around the big security conferences (think RSA or Blackhat/DEF CON), and you could spend 6 weeks catching back up. Everyone has a take, and without getting in front of the wave, the wheat may not be easy to separate from the chaff. How can you avoid–or at least lessen–the chance of missing the next question from a CISO while still maintaining a sense of sanity?

Where does the quest for knowledge transform into chasing your own tail?

Be picky

First and foremost, carefully vet your media input sources. Every source you sign-up for will inevitably add to the noise in your feed. Each follow, every like, even entering your email address for more information opens more avenues for daily discourse. Pick a few trusted sources of information, the innovators in your niche. For cybersecurity, Bruce Schneier (@schneierblog), Gene Spafford (@therealspaf) and Brian Krebs (@briankrebs) fit the mold. They’ll put enough content on the wire for a daily read in a short amount of time.

Set time limits

Set aside a period of time each day to catch up. It’s easy to read articles 24×7. Personally, I’m click baited any time I read a headline news article. My ADD increases my penchant for distraction, and suddenly three hours of my day passed without a tangible memo, report or other accomplishment.

Choose a duration that doesn’t wipe out the entire day, probably during the morning so you’ll have water cooler talk. Maybe it’s first thing before everyone comes in or you leave for the office, or try the train, lunch time. Find a daily podcast (Raf Los aka @Wh1t3Rabbit’s Down The Security Rabbit Hole is usually interesting) and listen to it during a morning exercise. Whatever it is, limit your alert time per day; they don’t call it Twitter for nothing.

Back-scatter and bit buckets

Be prepared to be bought and sold. The luckiest thing I ever did was buy my own domain name. I use unique email addresses for everything I sign up for and then forward the important ones into folders to keep my immediate inbox clean. It’s technically a back-scatter technique. If you have to make it past a marketing wall and provide information, don’t be afraid to unsubscribe, unfollow or remove access. Your contact info will be monetized, and most reputable marketing/distribution houses fear the legal ramifications of not complying with spam prevention acts. When someone doesn’t comply appropriately, simply point that individual address to the bit bucket.

The struggle is real

Add an additional account for friends and family threads for non-business hours. Co-workers at the office won’t think you’re wasting work time on personal pursuits. You also have a chance to create a work/life balance.

No one wants to live, breathe and die work. Cyber fatigue is real …

Jon-Michael C. Brook, Principal at Guide Holdings, LLC, has 20 years of experience in information security with such organizations as Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, Booz Allen Hamilton, Optiv Security and Symantec. He is co-chair of CSA’s Top Threats Working Group and the Cloud Broker Working Group, and contributor to several additional working groups. Brook is a Certified Certificate of Cloud Security Knowledge+ (CCSK+) trainer and Cloud Controls Matrix (CCM) reviewer and trainer.