The Brandeis GPS blog

Insights on online learning, tips for finding balance, and news and updates from Brandeis GPS

Category: Industry Insights (page 1 of 5)

Communication for Effective Leadership

It may go without saying, but communication is a prevalent and critical component of today’s workforce. The skillset is especially essential for professionals seeking to excel in a leadership role. Regardless of industry, professional communications is imperative for leading effective meetings, mitigating crises, and navigating negotiations and conflict resolution.

“Communications is a critical part of doing business, especially in today’s environment. News travels fast. A bad customer experience can become a social media sensation before the CEO is even informed of the problem,” said Mary Caraccioli, Chief Communications Officer for The Central Park Conservancy. “On the flip side, you can use the power of social media to engage directly (and more deeply) with customers, employees and other stakeholders. You can use the power of the communications revolution to work for you by making communications part of your business strategy.”

Mary Caraccioli HeadshotCaraccioli is teaching a master’s-level course in Communication for Effective Leadership, a fully online, 10-week class that will help students build on their critical thinking skills and apply oral and written communication strategies to solve organizational problems and drive organizational change. Throughout the course, students will focus on topics such as negotiation and facilitation, crisis communications and public relations, virtual and global communications, and stakeholder management.

By the end of Communication for Effective Leadership, students should be able to:

  • Develop, execute and measure communication plans to manage stakeholders, solve organizational problems and drive organizational change.
  • Adapt communication strategies and use digital technologies to align with organizational, cultural, virtual, and global needs.
  • Build a portfolio of communication campaigns including crisis response, company positioning, and media statements.

This course is available for professional development or as part of several GPS graduate programs, including Technology Management, Information Security Leadership, Digital Marketing and Design, Strategic Analytics, and Project and Program Management.

At GPS, you can take up to two online courses without officially enrolling in one of our 12 online master’s degrees. This is a great opportunity to get to know our programs and approach to online learning. If you’re interested in exploring one of our graduate programs, or would like to learn more about effective communication for professional development, submit your information or contact the  GPS office for more information or to request a syllabus: 781-736-8787 or gps@brandeis.edu.

The most promising jobs of 2019

Employment-oriented social networking site LinkedIn has recently released its list of the most promising jobs of 2019. It’s no surprise that jobs relating to Strategic Analytics, Software Engineering, and User-Centered Design dominated the top 15:

  1. Data Scientist
  2. Site Reliability Engineer
  3. Enterprise Account Executive
  4. Product Designer
  5. Product Owner
  6. Customer Success Manager
  7. Engagement Manager
  8. Solutions Architect
  9. Information Technology Lead
  10. Scrum Master
  11. Cloud Architect
  12. Product Marketing Manager
  13. Solutions Consultant
  14. Product Manager
  15. Machine Learning Engineer

LinkedIn based their rankings on salary, career advancement, number of job openings in the U.S., year-over-year growth in job openings, and widespread regional availability. LinkedIn also released lists of the top in-demand hard and soft skills for the year, which included Cloud Computing, Artificial Intelligence, and UX Design. Many of the part-time, online master’s degrees offered at Brandeis GPS directly correlate with the fields and industries LinkedIn identified as playing a critical role in the 2019 job market.

Students interested in pursuing a master’s degree with Brandeis GPS can take up to two courses for professional development before applying. To learn more, contact gps@brandeis.edu, call 781-736-8787 or visit www.brandeis.edu/gps.

How to attract and retain talent

In the current competitive job market, workplace benefits and perks go a long way to attract and retain top talent. To remain competitive, top employers find themselves investing in health/wellness and culture packages that include  gym memberships, catered lunches and happy hours on top of more traditional benefits like medical insurance, PTO and retirement savings plans.

Education — and tuition reimbursement for professional development in particular — is one employee benefit area where companies can truly distinguish themselves from their competitors. According to the Society for Human Resource Management’s 2018 Employee Benefits Survey, the majority of employees (86%) indicated that professional and career development benefits are important to overall job satisfaction. If employees are satisfied with their jobs, they are more likely to stay with a company for longer. And particularly in today’s tech-heavy industries, companies that provide employees with opportunities for professional development will also ensure that their talent will stay on the cutting edge of new technologies and best practices in their fields.

Brandeis GPS  offers employers a corporate partnership program that enables companies to provide their employees with discounted tuition on top-tier master’s degrees and professional development courses. We partner with national brands ranging from startups to Fortune 500 companies, including PTCNorth Shore Medical, and Harvard Pilgrim.

The benefits of a corporate partnership with Brandeis GPS are two-fold: employees are financially empowered to position themselves for career advancement, and companies can groom the next level of leadership from within.

GPS offers 12 fully online graduate programs. Our curricula captures the latest applied technologies and industry best practices while incorporating the rigorous standards of excellence that make Brandeis University one of the top universities in the country. GPS courses are taught by instructors who are leaders in their fields and bring an array of experiences and industry connections to their classrooms. Each of our master’s degrees and courses are shaped by input from program-specific advisory boards, ensuring that they remain current and relevant for students who are active practitioners in their fields.

Learn more about our corporate partnership options on our website or contact Kathryn Wight, Director of Partnership Engagement, at kwight@brandeis.edu or 781-736-8725.

Looking back: the growth of Python

Since Guido van Rossum first released Python to the public in 1991, it has become one of the fastest growing major programming languages and established itself as the defacto language among varied scientific communities.

Python is particularly valuable to today’s forward-thinking industries and technologies, including data science and machine learning. Its intuitive platform makes it appealing for new programmers, yet it can also serve as a tool for more complex purposes.

Some of the features of Python include:

  • Minimal keywords, simple structure, and a clearly defined syntax
  • Code that is much shorter than former industry-leader JavaScript
  • A broad standard library that is portable and compatible on a number of hardware platforms
  • A mode allowing interactive testing and debugging of pieces of code
  • Tool customization for efficiency using added low-level modules

Master Python Programming

Brandeis GPS offers multiple online courses that teach the programming language specific to certain industries: Python Programming (FinTech), Bioinformatics Scripting and Python Programming (Bioinformatics), and Python for Robotics and AI  (Robotics). All three courses are available for professional development as long as students can demonstrate previous basic experience with a programming language (or undergraduate-level coursework).

Brandeis GPS offers rolling admission to our 12 fully-online master’s degree programs, so you can apply and be accepted at any time. However, we do have recommended deadlines if you are seeking admission for a specific term. The deadline to apply to our Spring 1 session is Wednesday, December 19. You can apply here. Those interested in taking a course who do not yet wish to pursue a full master’s degree can still take up to two online courses without officially enrolling.

To learn more about GPS courses or graduate programs, check out our website or contact gps@brandeis.edu or 781-736-8787.

When the Wrong Person Leads Cybersecurity

By Matthew Rosenquist

Succeeding at managing cybersecurity risks is tremendously difficult even for seasoned professionals. To make situations worse, poorly suited people are often chosen to lead security organizations, bringing about disastrous results. This has contributed to weaker risk postures for organizations and the rapid turnover in cybersecurity leadership.

I am unhappy to report that the industry has a pervasive problem that few want to discuss: a propensity to enlist inexperienced or unsuitable professionals to lead cybersecurity. It is time to change that caustic and enabling behavior by first recognizing the problem.

As an example, recently in the news, there was criticisms for someone appointed with the responsibility to lead the cybersecurity effort for the 2020 Olympics, but had never used a computer. How does someone who has never used a computer and has difficulty answering basic questions about USB drives, be tasked with building a cybersecurity program to protect the digital security, privacy, and safety for hundreds of thousands of people?

Downward Spirals

Sadly, I have seen similar situations play-out over and over again across academia, business, and government sectors. Far too often, poorly suited people are appointed such roles and it simply does not make sense. Let’s be clear, most are truly knowledgeable and accomplished in their primary field, but a transition to security is a significantly different domain. Engineering and product management executives focus mostly on static problems where there is a solution and desired end-state. Whereas in cybersecurity, we face a highly dynamic set of threat agents, people who are creative, intelligent, motivated, and dynamic, who will adapt to any solution. There is no permanent fix for cybersecurity as it is an ongoing competition to managing risks between defenders and attackers.

Human nature, overconfidence, and a lack of understanding the challenges begins to shape a counterproductive mindset. It is common for a professional from a different discipline, transplanted and put in charge of cybersecurity, to believe their prior expertise is equally applicable to the new challenges. Somehow, magically, they think they are as proficient and insightful at an adjacent domain as their previous profession. To those experienced in adversarial challenges who have seen this unfold, it is an affront to common sense. It is no surprise that such dangerous situations most often result in momentous failure.

For years, the turnover rate in cybersecurity leadership positions across the industry has been very high, with most Chief Information Security Officers (CISO) only lasting 2 to 4 years. When surveyed, CISO’s cite a lack of executive management support or insufficient budgets were the pervasive motivators. But that is only one side of the story as many CISO’s have been let go.

I have always been curious what C-suites and board had to say. When I ask company leaders about a change in cybersecurity leadership, I often hear that an outgoing CISO was ineffective, could not communicate risks well, and demanded significant budget increases every year yet the organization did not show a commensurate benefit. Events culminated when a severe incident occurred and then the C-suite or board chose to find a new security leader.

With the shortage of CISO’s in the industry, those displaced quickly find another company and continue their ‘training’. This musical-chairs routine does not serve the company or overall industry needs very well and simply transplants problems from one organization to another.

Masters of All

This mistake occurs regularly with technical personnel, probably as cybersecurity is generally characterized as a technology problem by the unacquainted. An accomplished engineer or architect is put in charge of security and now with ‘cybersecurity’ in front of their title they truly believe they are a risk expert. They are not. Being savvy in technology vulnerabilities and exploits is far different than understanding the massive breadth involved in managing risk. Most are unwilling to admit their shortsightedness in the breadth and depth of the challenges and their arrogance simply becomes a hinderance to seeking the needed help to be successful.

Ego can be such a major hindrance when the fear, of being perceived as not understanding a problem or knowing an answer, limits your actions. It is typical for a person in such a quandary to retreat back to familiar areas they know, resulting in defining the problem and solution only in the terms of technology. This ignores the behavioral, adversarial, and process aspects that are crucial to managing risk. With blinders on, they continue to push forward regardless, thus the car wreck begins.

Cybersecurity is more than just a ‘tech’ problem and will never be ‘solved’ with technology alone (two pervasive misconceptions from engineers first joining cybersecurity). They are likely doomed. I have seen this happen countless times and can spot it a mile away. It is like an automobile accident happening in slow motion with an overconfident driver continuing to push forward as metal bends and glass shatters.

Enlarged Version of Cybersecurity Domains

Part of the issue is that people, who are experts in one field, assume they understand the entire problem set in another adjacent but ambiguous field. It is not until they are in the new role, that they then experience the unforeseen challenges of a different world.

Imagine a hospital. Would you promote the engineer who developed a defibrillation tool to be an emergency room doctor? No. Although tools and technology play a crucial role in medicine, it is not the same as predicting, preventing, detecting, and responding to health risks for patients across their lifespan. The same applies in cybersecurity. Technology is the battlefield, not the war. Understanding the terrain is important, but must be combined with a keen assessment of your opponents, and the ability to operationally maneuver in advantageous ways.

This is true in other fields as well. Aeronautical engineers aren’t promoted to fighter pilots and textbook publishers aren’t necessarily good grade school principals, so why do organizations make the mistake of a taking a software engineer or business-line product manager and expect them to be successful in leading cybersecurity?

Two Scenarios: Vastly Different Chances for Success

Now, I did say this is a recipe for failure most of the time. There are some, very rare situations, where an insightful but inexperienced person takes a cybersecurity leadership role and succeeds. It is possible. I have only seen it a handful of times and in every case that person was realistic about their knowledge and checked their ego at the door.

Guaranteed Failure:

An engineer, project manager, or business executive is put in charge of cybersecurity. They are confused or intimidated by security practitioners in their organization and respond by immediately surrounding themselves with like-minded, yet similarly security inexperienced people. They add other engineers, marketing, and legal people to their core echelon, inadvertently creating a self-reinforcing ineffective group-think team. Congratulations, an inexperienced leader has just encircled themselves with a cushion of people who don’t have the knowledge to challenge poor directives or independently deliver sustainable success. If you wonder what conversations with them are like, take a look at the Dilbert cartoon, specifically the ‘manager’ character. That is pretty close. Funny from afar, but frustrating up close.

Ineffectual organizations tend to grow fast, spend a lot of money, make hollow promises, tell a story of difficult times that are turning around, but have no real strategic plan, prioritized goals, or clearly defined scope with organizational roles and responsibilities. They seek non-existent cure-all solutions, and their long-term stratagem is to hope nothing bad happens while they battle daily issues. Even worse, the proficient security personnel, that may have been part of the team, will likely leave such a caustic environment for a better employer. That breaks my heart when I see capable people who want to make a difference, driven away. When quality employees begin jumping-ship en-masse, it is a sure warning sign.

The easiest way to detect this situation early on, is to look at their metrics, or lack thereof. If a security organization operates without the benefit of tangible metrics, it is a likely sign they have not defined or are not tracking against goals, roles, objectives, and probably aren’t measuring or tracking risk. What they are doing is responding to issues, self-marketing, rapidly growing the team, consuming significant resources, slowing down the business, and the looking for people to blame when their ineffectiveness becomes apparent. These orgs don’t last. They implode. People quickly leave and executive oversight will soon look past the whitewash to cut budgets, headcount, and eventually replace the leaders.

Potential for Success:

An engineer, project manager, or business executive is put in charge of cybersecurity. They understand they are not a security expert, so they assemble a team who has experience and talent in protecting digital assets, understanding threats, can articulate risks, and are intimate with the technology in use. They build an organization structure that is comprised of operations, engineering, and risk intelligence teams. Then listen and learn. Great leaders bring in the best people and let them excel. They quickly get clarification on the business goals and expectations from executives and customers. They then identify prioritized objectives, define a scope, derive the supporting measurable goals, identify areas in need of immediate attention, and establish the measures & metrics necessary to track progress.

Governance issues are addressed and a strategic process capability is embedded to constantly improve the organizations risk management ability to predict, prevent, detect, and respond to threats. They establish both the tactical plans necessary for immediate survival and day-to-day management, but also define a long-term directional strategy that takes into account the ever-evolving threat landscape, technology changes, and shifting expectations for security, privacy, and safety.

Proficient security workers thrive in such organizations and rarely leave. With a strong plan and capable team in place, leaders can effectively communicate and advocate across the organization. If all of these elements land in place, with the proper support, even an inexperienced security leader can have a chance at success.

Unfortunately, it rarely happens.

Failure is Expensive

Cybersecurity is difficult. It becomes exponentially more problematic when someone who lacks the necessary mentality or skills comes in and makes it profoundly worse. Cleaning up an ineffective legacy security program is painful, expensive, and time consuming. Simultaneously, a poor risk posture opens the door to more attacks and greater impacts until a capable security program is instituted.

We must understand that cybersecurity, like many other highly specialized roles, requires a depth of insight and experience to lead. I will echo Sun Tzu’s “…do what is great while it is small” and recommend putting a good leader in place the first time to build an effective and sustainable cybersecurity organization.

Let’s all break the silence and openly discuss the cycle of poor cybersecurity leadership, for everyone’s benefit.

For more insights on the challenges and required strategic deliverables, read my post Cybersecurity Fails Without Strategy.

Interested in more insights, rants, industry news and experiences? Follow me on Steemit and LinkedIn for insights and what is going on in cybersecurity.

Read the article as originally published here.

Matthew Rosenquist is a member of the Brandeis GPS Information Security Leadership advisory board. He is a Cybersecurity Strategist for Intel Corp and benefits from 28 years in the field of security. He specializes in strategy, measuring value, and developing cost effective capabilities and organizations which deliver optimal levels of security. Matthew helped with the formation of the Intel Security Group, an industry leading organization bringing together security across hardware, firmware, software and services. An outspoken advocate of cybersecurity, he strives to advance the industry and his guidance can be heard at conferences, and found in whitepapers, articles, and blogs.

Faces of GPS is an occasional series that profiles Brandeis University Graduate Professional Studies students, faculty and staff. Find more Faces of GPS stories here.

How to create a digital culture at your workplace

The Enterpriser’s Project defines digital transformation as the integration of digital technology into all areas of a business, fundamentally changing how you operate and deliver value to customers.

In a world where technology is advancing at a rapid pace, digital transformation should be a required strategy for any organization. To be successful, workplaces must build a digital culture where employees embrace new technologies.

4 Steps for Building a Digital Culture

1. Be upfront about the digital transformation your workplace is undertaking 

Be sure to provide a clear message to employees about what is coming down the pike. Address the key components of what digital transformation is and keep employees informed on what changes they’ll see, what the impact will be, and the likely timeline.

2. Engage employees in forums for discussing  new technologies

Employees should be included in the digital transformation process by having an opportunity to discuss/debate advantages and possible disadvantages of new technologies. They should have a forum to ask questions about new tools and platforms and the most recent technologies such as AI and machine learning, and also feel empowered to share concerns and discuss ways to mitigate risks related to any upcoming transitions.

Graph displaying digital readiness

Image Source: https://infocus.dellemc.com/tim_wright/why-the-workforce-needs-to-change-for-digital-transformation/

3. Make expectations for digital transformation clear

Once there is a timeline in place for your company’s digital transformation, management should be clear with employees about what that is and make sure they are adjusting as necessary. Provide structured goals for employees and monitor individuals’ progress.

4. Promote digital readiness by pursuing professional development in tech-rich fields 

After explaining the digital transformation occurring in your workplace, employees will need to keep up-to-date with their technical knowledge. It may be beneficial to employees to take courses or undergo trainings for professional development.

Brandeis GPS provides online Master’s degrees in tech-rich fields including Strategic Analytics, Digital Marketing and Design, Digital Innovation for FinTech, Robotic Software Engineering, and more. At GPS, you can take up to two courses for professional development before enrolling in one of our 12 online Master’s programs.

Brandeis GPS also works with employers through corporate partnerships, providing tuition scholarships and/or training and continual conversation around educational support for companies.

For more information about our 12 online Master’s degree programs or to learn more about taking courses for professional development, contact gps@brandeis.edu, call 781-736-8787 or visit www.brandeis.edu/gps

Information Security Leadership at Brandeis GPS

With rising technology usage, there has been an inevitable rise in cybersecurity threats and an increased  demand for information security professionals. There is a growing responsibility to protect information as cybersecurity risks can be catastrophic for companies, customers, and careers.

With a Brandeis GPS Master’s in Information Security Leadership, you earn the confidence to attack any cybersecurity situation with leadership and technical savvy.

Brandeis University is ranked #35 among national universities by U.S. News and World Report, so you will have earned a master’s from one of the top universities in the country to lead you through any cybersecurity challenge, and to influence decisions for risk prevention.

Our cutting-edge, industry relevant, 100% online curriculum for professionals will build your leadership abilities and skills in leveraging technical know-how. Since you will learn alongside cybersecurity leaders from many industries in small seminar-style classes with no more than 12 students, your exposure to cybersecurity threats of all kinds will be significantly expanded.

The program will equip you to:

  • Develop a business case for investing in cybersecurity and risk management
  • Inform and influence senior executives to commit to obtaining and maintaining this investment
  • Oversee the planning, acquisition and evolution of secure infrastructures
  • Assess the impact of security policies and regulatory requirements on complex systems and organizational objectives

The 30-credit part-time, online program has six required courses and four electives.

The required courses are Foundations of Information Security, Information Security Management, Principles of Computer Incident Response and Investigation, Principles of Risk Management in Information Security, Information Security and Compliance, and Leading Security in Complex Organizations.

Options for electives include Identity Management and Access Control, Cloud Security, Secure Mobile Applications and Data, Network Security, and Managing Change and Innovation. View all courses offered in Information Security Leadership here.

Those applying to the Information Security Leadership program should have an undergraduate degree with work experience and/or coursework in introduction to networking, introduction to computer science and introduction to computer security.

We hope you enjoyed our cybersecurity series as part of National Cyber Awareness Month.

Brandeis GPS offers a Master’s of Science in Information Security Leadership. The part-time, fully online program prepares graduates for leadership roles in information security with a cutting-edge, industry relevant curriculum that builds leadership savvy and skill in leveraging technical know-how. For more information, contact gps@brandeis.edu, call 781-736-8787 or visit www.brandeis.edu/gps

Governance and the case for bringing cybersecurity out of IT

By Joseph Dalessandro

October is National Cyber Awareness Month, and we’ll be spotlighting cybersecurity content on the blog all month long.

Information security governance is perhaps the most challenging aspect of cybersecurity.

Governance, while not a four-letter word, is often discussed with the same grumble that one uses when speaking about the dentist or aged fish. The basics of governance revolves around the advancement that simple accountability and transparency deters calamity. One cannot predict and avoid all disasters — think volcano here — but at the same time, one cannot grade one’s own homework.

It works well until there is a real test and someone else has the red pen. I think it was the queen of corporate governance, Nell Minow, who said, “watched boards change.” I agree, and would say this observation can be applied all the way down the corporate chain into an organization: those that change are the ones who are watched as objectively as possible.

So what does this have to do with cybersecurity, and why is governance hard in the cybersecurity space? There are a number of reasons for this perception. First, boards have been bamboozled by jargon and an IT executive tier that has been unclear and unsure of what and how to report on security. (For those of you on boards, when was the last time you had a security executive discuss the direct link between spend and the measured reduction of risk?). Indeed, in a Bay Dynamics/Osterman Research survey, “the majority (85%) of board members
believe that IT
and security executives need to improve the way they report to the board.”

While I am not a fan of standards for standards’ sake, the ISO/IEC 38500:2008 Corporate governance of information technology has the following useful definitions:

  • Corporate governance: The system by which organizations are directed and controlled.
  • Corporate governance of IT: The system by which the current and future use of IT is directed and controlled. Corporate governance of IT involves evaluating and directing the use of IT to support the organization and monitoring this use to achieve plans. It includes the strategy and policies for using IT within an organization.
  • Management: The system of controls and processes required to achieve the strategic objectives set by the organization’s governing body. Management is subject to the policy guidance and monitoring set through corporate governance.

Security leaders should tack these definitions to their wall.

When it comes to how security leaders can set the right direction for the board and make sure the Board has the right information for strategic oversight, I think it is a “two-way street.” Boards need to come to the security business and ask questions and security leaders need to come to the Board with improved reporting. Perhaps an improvement would be an approach that keeps the security report separate and distinct from that of technology. For organizations where information security, or cybersecurity, does not report to IT— bravo! You have taken a step toward greater transparency. The inherent mission of IT is accessibility and availability and the inherent mission of security is possession (control), protection and integrity. These missions are often in conflict, and managing them under the same leader (often a technology leader), could result in a Head of Security who does not have the chance to challenge or push back against the IT Executive who writes their performance assessment and controls their compensation.

We can better coordinate, manage and govern our complete security capabilities by bringing cybersecurity out of IT and taking a more holistic approach to incorporating physical and facility security, fraud and loss mitigation, and the other components converging security capabilities, data collection, management, and ultimately governance.

An organization’s board and business management must be in alignment where spend and the use of emerging technology are converging for the business. Security leaders should consider the following approach to champion governance:

  1. Above all, be transparent and accountable. Don’t tell the board what they want to hear or what you think they want to hear (they know when they are being managed). Represent the security program objectively. Characterize how security investments support the delivery of value for the business and supports organizational objectives.
  2. Do the hard work to consistently measure, monitor and report on security risk, and to provide the analysis between security investments and the execution to mitigate or manage risk and reduce or limit potential impact.
  3. Share performance and achievements of security resources — these drive the execution of a program and they are where the rubber meets the road for execution of the security program. Just like other business function, people are what drive success for a security program.
  4. Demonstrate how cybersecurity is aligned with and supports the strategic planning and objectives of the business and the expected business outcomes. Often the inherent conflict between the IT mantra of constant access and availability will be in conflict with cybersecurity’s mission of possession, protection and integrity, but the two do not have to be contentious, but IT needs a peer who can hold IT accountable if needed, not a lackey who does what they are told.

Joseph (Joe) Dalessandro is the program chair of the Information Security Leadership program at Brandeis University Graduate Professional Studies, and the Head of Security & Technology Audit and Audit Data Analytics, Australian Unity.

Brandeis GPS offers a Master’s of Science in Information Security Leadership. The part-time, fully online program prepares graduates for leadership roles in information security with a cutting-edge, industry relevant curriculum that builds leadership savvy and skill in leveraging technical know-how. For more information, contact gps@brandeis.edu, call 781-736-8787 or visit www.brandeis.edu/gps.

Security and the Internet of Things

By Joseph Dalessandro

October is National Cyber Awareness Month, and we’ll be spotlighting cybersecurity content on the blog all month long.

Love it or despise it, the Internet of Things (IoT) has forever altered human thinking and interaction. Increased telemetry from our bodies through wearable tech and app analysis of data about our health and personal space has led to discovery, identification and interactions with others through apps and smart devices that is the new norm. How will this explosion of devices change our mission objective as security leaders and professionals?

The term IoT is generally applied to “endpoint” objects such as devices, wearables, cameras, chips, toys, and other objects that can be accessed through a connection such as WiFi or other carrier signals and interacted with via the internet. Examples that have become pervasive would be FitBit wearable’s, iWatches, Alexa or Google Home devices, Nest thermostats, and medical devices such as insulin pumps. While these devices are limited in capability, often just one or two functions or a binary state of on/off, the numbers of devices and the absence of uniform minimum security standards from manufacturers present a problem (several actually) for our IT departments Infrastructure management and security professional.

We can easily find statistics about the number of devices that have emerged in earnest since 2008. The 2017 Cisco Visual Networking Index provides a comprehensive view of some of those numbers. Two of my favorite highlights from this report include:

  • There will be 3.5 networked devices per capita by 2021 (global population 7.875 times 3.5)
  • IP traffic in North America will reach 85 EB per month by 2021 (And North America will not be the highest trafficked global region)

While I am not sure where that bandwidth comes from (I cannot get great consistently streaming bandwidth for Netflix sometimes), what worries me more is patching, tracking and controlling devices. Now, I am not suggesting we control all devices, but I need to control the ones that are on my network because they will increase the potential surface of attack for our networks by orders of magnitude. The more devices you add, outside of implemented and effective controls, the quicker your organization will suffer a breach. Therefore, if you don’t get roles such as patching right you will be lost under the crushing weight of IoT adoption rates. We have to get the “basics” right to ensure we have a foundation capable of integrating IoT devices. We will also need to assess risk and device configuration and a number of other areas we will not venture into here.

In the world of cyber security, people and data are what we most are accustomed to thinking about protecting and defending against. How do we wrap our heads around the potential problems of IoT where the numbers are so much higher? I would submit that we undertake the following approach:

  1. Get the basics right. There will be a lot of debate about what “get the basics right” means but at a high level, I am referring to:
  • Have a comprehensive security program based on risk, with regular assessments
  • Identify where all your data is located and ensure it is appropriately categorized
  • User access, and privileged access, is controlled and re-certified (access for IoT devices as well)
  • Network traffic is premeditated and segmented and network information is logged and monitored (must also scale)
  • Systems management has KPI’s and documented configuration baselines or employs a CMDB
  • Change Management and patching are religiously observed and followed
  • There is a formal incident management/response process (and adjust and augment IR for IoT)
  • There is a crisis and contingency management plan that is tested and updated annually

Yup, that was just step 1. Get all this right and you can start to think about being able to control IoT in your ecosystem.

2. Determine the level of increased risk, or changed risk, related to data loss or breach from #3.

3. Augment your information management or data governance policies and processes to encompass IoT increased data creation and interaction.

4. Determine the physical limits or extensions of IoT devices. Can users outside your physical location use devices or access devices inside your physical location? Do you need to limit (or attempt to limit) the carrier signal outside your four walls?

5. Hire a competent and qualified leader to bridge between security and IT. Brandeis Information Security Leadership graduates are great candidates.

IoT is a big problem that can seem overwhelming, where unpatched devices can increase your threat surface by orders of magnitude. Remember, getting the basics right will see you treating IoT with the same risk strategy that has allowed you to manage technology risk.

Joseph (Joe) Dalessandro is the program chair of the Information Security Leadership program at Brandeis University Graduate Professional Studies, and the Head of Security & Technology Audit and Audit Data Analytics, Australian Unity.

Brandeis GPS offers a Master’s of Science in Information Security Leadership. The part-time, fully online program prepares graduates for leadership roles in information security with a cutting-edge, industry relevant curriculum that builds leadership savvy and skill in leveraging technical know-how. For more information, contact gps@brandeis.edu, call 781-736-8787 or visit www.brandeis.edu/gps.

Image source: https://www.personneltoday.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/8/2015/06/wearable-tech-wearable-technology.jpg

Information Security has the perfect mindset to facilitate decision-support red teaming

By Joseph Dalessandro

October is National Cyber Awareness Month, and we’ll be spotlighting cybersecurity content on the blog all month long.

We hear the term “red team” liberally used these days, applied in the security space for both force-on-force scenario testing (subverting hardened facilities and assets) and in the information security space, primarily referring to “white hat” hacking to assess security posture for systems, devices, network perimeters and web applications.

A “red teamer” in the decision support or strategic space is formally trained and uses critical thinking tools and techniques to provoke analysis, stress test strategies, plans and perspectives. At the heart of this work is the modeling or reframing of the problem space from the adversaries perspective.  Red teamers and Security Pros are by nature contrarians, and it is this contrarian mindset we want to capitalize on.

While cybersecurity “red teaming” as penetration testing is vital to an organization’s testing of its security and data protection posture, it has a narrow scope. However, everyone these days in this space wants to refer to his or her work as red teaming. The practice of decision support red teaming is the area that I am submitting an organization can immediately benefit from and are not currently employing. This is an area where your security team can add value by adopting the tools and techniques to facilitate red teaming. Information security professionals are diverse thinkers and often “see” across the entire enterprise. Equipping them with red team tools and techniques can enhance their value in guiding the organization to make better decisions.

Red teaming and the value of a premortem

So how do we do it?  How do we immediately capitalize on our existing stance as contrarians to serve as strategic red teamers? There are a number of available tools such as the U.S.Army’s Applied Critical Thinking Handbook, and Bryce Hoffman’s Red Teaming. We start with, most importantly, is buy-in and genuine support from the top of the organization, and the admission that we will trust our decision to conduct red team analysis and we will be true to the results. There are a number of short tools to use to try this, one of the most straightforward is to have your security staff conduct a premortem on your most important security project for the upcoming year.

The basic approach of the premortem is to visualize, prospectively, about the project failing and using this to illuminate the cause(s) of the failure.  This is not a risk assessment. We are not speculating on what could harm our project, we are identifying what actually caused the failure. This is pathology; we are engaged in diagnosis, not prognosis. Supplies needed are easy to acquire, you will need paper or index cards and pens/pencils and a white board or projector.

  • The leader (security staff facilitator) level sets with the group by reading out the summary from the business case or a summarized version of the project. The leader tells everybody that they should assume that their team, the project team, has made the decision to go forward and that the project has gone forward and has concluded. We are in the future now, a year into the future, and the project has been an utter failure. It has crashed and burned with no redeeming outcome or benefit.
  • Exercise: Each player (project team member) takes the paper in front of him/her and writes a brief narrative or cause of the failure. Take 5 minutes and work in silence.
  • The facilitator collects the paper or cards and generates a list of all the points on a whiteboard or projector. The facilitator can now work with the group to solicit further failure ideas, inspired by the list.
  • Engage in a game to further determine the top five causes for the failure. [A practical note here: if you conduct a premortem and determine a set of failures that are agreed universally by the group as being actual failures, you have a fundamental problem with your project. Stop it immediately and take a step back and rethink the plan.]

Red teaming is best conducted with as diverse a group as possible, and often times those who have had the least to do with the project plan formation can provide insights into points of failure. As you look to expand your tool set in the future, a master’s degree in security leadership can help engender this contrarian mindset and improve the value of security in your organization.

Joseph (Joe) Dalessandro is the program chair of the Information Security Leadership program at Brandeis University Graduate Professional Studies, and the Head of Security & Technology Audit and Audit Data Analytics, Australian Unity.

Brandeis GPS offers a Master’s of Science in Information Security Leadership. The part-time, fully online program prepares graduates for leadership roles in information security with a cutting-edge, industry relevant curriculum that builds leadership savvy and skill in leveraging technical know-how. For more information, contact gps@brandeis.edu, call 781-736-8787 or visit www.brandeis.edu/gps

Image source: LeadX.org

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