The Brandeis GPS blog

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

Tag: Master of Science in Information Security Leadership

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

Protected by Akismet
Blog with WordPress

Welcome Guest | Login (Brandeis Members Only)