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Making the world angrier, one process at a time

Angry Thom BlogI have recently set up Family Sharing on my iOS devices, so that I can monitor and control what apps go on my kids devices without having to be in the room with them. Previously they would ask for an app, and I would type in my AppleID password and that was  that. Unfortunately with my new role I am travelling so much now that the thought of waiting a week before they can get an apps was causing apoplectic grief with my kids. Family Sharing was the solution, and when I had finally worked it out, we were goood to go and it works well. I can now authorise a purchase from anywhere in the world. I get woken up at 3am with a request for a BFF makeover or car crash game (one girl, one boy) but my kids are happy.

One problem however was that for some reason my daughters date of birth was incorrect, therefore indicating that she was an adult, and thereby breaking the whole “app approval” process. Straightforward to fix? Not at all.

I won’t bore you with the details, but it was the most frustrating process I have encountered in a long time. I admit, I misinterpreted the instructions along the way (they were a bit asinine in my defence), but it came down to the fact that I had to have a credit card as my default payment method for my family account, not a debit card, simply to authorise the change of status of my daughter from an adult to a child. In other words, I had to jump through hoops to restrict her  account rather than give it more privilege. Not only that, but from an account that already had the privileges in the first place. There didn’t seem to be any element of trust along the way.

I am sure there is a good, formal response from Apple along the lines of “take your security seriously”, “strong financial controls” etc, but as an experience for me it sucked, and if I could have worked around it I would have. Thankfully not all of Apple’s ecosystem works like this!

This is a problem for many information security organisations when they introduce procedures to support organisational change or request mechanisms. For instance, how many times have you seen a change request process require CISO, CIO and potentially even higher approvals for even simple changes? Often this is due to a lack of enablement in the organisation, the ability to trust people at all levels, and often it is a simple lack of accountability. It seems we regularly don’t trust either our own business folks as well as our own employees to make the right decisions.

Procedures like this fail in a number of places:

  1. They place huge pressure on executives to approve requests they have little context on, and little time to review.
  2. The operational people in the process gain no experience in investigting and approving as they simply escalate upwards.
  3. The original requestors are frustrated by slow progress and no updates as the requests are stuck in senior management and above queues.
  4. The requestors often work aroun d the procedure, avoid it, or simply do the opposite of what finally comes out of the request as work pressures dictate a quicker response.
  5. The owners of the procedure respond with even tighter regulations and processes in order to reduce the ability nof the nrequestor to wotk around them.

And so the cycle continues.

The approach I have regularly used in situations like this comprises of two tenets:

  1. Consider the experience of the user first, then the desirable outcomes of the process second.
  2. Whatever process you then come up with, simplify it further. And at least once more.

Why should you consider the expoerience of the user first? Who is the process for the benfit of, you as in formation secuity, or them as the end user? If you answered the former, then go to the back of the class. We are not doing security for our benefit, it is not security for the sake of security, it is to allow the user, our customers, to do more. If we make their experience bad as they do their best to make more money, sell more beer, do more whatever, security becomes an irellevance at best and a barrier to successful business at worst.

Making the requstors exoerience as painless and as straightforward as possible (perhaps eeven throw in a bit of education in there?) they are encouraged to not only see the long term benefits of using the procedure as we defined, but also become fanatical advocates of it.

Secondly, why should we keep it simple? Well not only to support the above points, but also because guess who is going to have to support the process when it is running? Of course, you and your team. If the process itself is bulky and unmanageable then more time will be spent running the process than doing the work that the process needs to support. If that amount of time becomes too onerous over time, then the process itself breaks down, the reporting on the process becomes outdated, and ultimately the process itself becomes irrelevant and considered a waste of time by those it affects.

Putting your requestors at the centre of your simplified process universe will always make that process more robust, more understood, more beneficial and of course more relevant to the business, and who can argue with that?

InfoSecurity Europe

I spoke at this years InfoSecurity Europe in London a few months back on articulating risk to senior management. Peter Wood, the moderator, did an excellent job as moderator of the panel, and even revitalised my faith in them after too many very poor experiences earlier this year.

That was the week that was; InfoSec Europe, BSides and the Security Bloggers Network

?????????????????????????????????????????A lot of good stuff has already been written about this last week with regards to BSides London, InfoSecurity Europe and the Security Blogger awards, so this post is a personal recollection after the haze of too many late nights, early mornings and good times.

Tuesday 29th bought BSides London, and once again the volunteers surpassed themselves; it retained two tracks but definitely felt expanded with the workshops and a new location for the rookie track. The organizers should feel rightly proud of what they have done, and those of you who didn’t turn up on the day (and therefore denied others of a ticket) should take good long look at themselves in the mirror.

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The Danger Zone Dream Team

I had to spend the afternoon over at Infosecurity Europe as I was on a panel titled “One big threat to cyber security: IT Geeks can’t talk to management” alongside Dwayne Melancon and Stephen Bonner. It was only 25 minutes long but I felt we managed to push a lot of good advice and takeaways into it, and the conversations continued afterwards in the hallway. I even managed to get a reference to Kenny Loggins into one answer, something I feel rightfully proud of.

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Joseph & Ian rocking the BSides Rookie Track

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Trying to look young again…

Then back to BSides to see Joseph Gwynne-Jones speak on the rookie track. I was mentoring Joseph this year, and to be honest I found it very challenging as Joseph is profoundly deaf; we couldn’t speak in the run up to BSides and could only communicate over email and Twitter. I advised as best I could, reviewed slides etc, but what was crucial was the ability of his interpreter being able to effectively communicate the jargon etc on the day. Given Joseph wouldn’t meet him until the morning of the conference this would be quite a challenge. As it turned out Ian Hodgetts  did a marvelous job, and was also on hand to interpret into British Sign Language (BSL) of all of the talks Joseph went to. We believe this is a first for an info security conference. Joseph obviously did an absolutely cracking job and I was able to spend some time with him and Ian afterwards talking about what else we could do in the future to improve further. It was an eye opener for me, and an absolute education in how important it is to communicate clearly and effectively in these kinds of conferences to absolutely everyone who attends. At the after party I was able to wear the hoody that was generously given to me by the Abertay Ethical Hacking Society, and feel like a student again (if not look like one).

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Best Personal Security Blog

Wednesday bought Infosec Europe again after a few early morning meetings, (including some scheming and rubbing of hands with invisible soap with the good folks of 44CON at the 44Cafe – I can’t wait for September!) but the highlight was of course the Security Bloggers Awards. Between me and Host Unknown I was up for eight awards in total, and came away with the award for Best Personal Security Blog, again! I was both surprised and touched that I was able to get this award again. Host Unknown didn’t fare as well unfortunately, but I can guarantee that the next twelve months will put us in a very strong position for next year, both at the European awards as well as the USA awards at RSA. Unfortunately Andrew was indisposed to help us collect a Host Unknown prize (that we didn’t win).

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Confirming what everyone already knew

(I have said this before but will say it again, everyone who is not only involved but also nominated for the blogger awards represents the very best of our industry in that they are all contributing their time and expertise to the community; I can’t recommend enough that if you are reading this that you also read their blogs too. Also, none of this would have happened without Brian Honan, Jack Daniel, Tenable, Tripwire and Firemon; thank you all.

Thursday bought another panel, this time in the Keynote Theatre with a panel on “Risk and control: Effective risk assessment methodologies to drive security strategy and investment” (alongside Vicki Gavin, Paul Haywood and moderated very well by Dave Clemente. It was a good, vibrant session and with plenty of questions both during and after the session.

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Inspired by the success of the CI Double SP film, we create a band called “CISS (P)”

A selfie, with a very famous CISO of Restricted Intelligence

A selfie, with a very famous CISO of Restricted Intelligence

Finally for the afternoon I got involved in only what can be termed a “flash mob” for Twist & Shout (as soon as that is released I will show it here!) and then got engrossed in the hallway track with the likes of Shan Lee, Quentyn Taylor, Peter Stephens, Jim Shields, Dave Lewis, Wim Remes, of course my conference partner in crime Javvad, and the lovely folks of Eskenzi and Acumin.

If there is one thing that is apparent form the above it is that any conference week is only valuable from the people you meet there. This list must be barely 10% of the people I shook hands with, shared a drink or said hello to, all of whom influence me to one degree or another. Whatever your thoughts on the infosec conference scene, this aspect alone is what makes it worthwhile. Apologies to anyone and everyone I have missed out.

InfoSecurity Europe is a show that has gone from strength to strength over the last few years, with the education programme improving; combine this with an excellent BSides London Conference, this week in Europe is one to look out for (although next year Infosec Europe and BSides will be from 2nd to 4th June at Olympia).

Don’t Put Baby in the Corner

5670_fullLast week I had the opportunity to do both a presentation at the BCS IRMA Specialist Group as well as take part in a drastically reduced panel with Javvad Malik (and only Javvad!) at the InfoSec Europe 2013 Press conference.

Firstly I want to recount the panel for the press conference. After some last minute drop outs (one of which I was replacing anyway!) there was just Javvad and me available to do it less than 24 hours before we were due to start. In his own inimitable style he proposed a double act Parkinson style to talk about the challenges faced by a CISO in the Enterprise. I was somewhat unconvinced by this but true to his word, the whole session went extremely well and was thoroughly enjoyable. Afterwards Javvad was told  by some of the journalists that the session was a great way to end the two days with the non vendor focus of the session, and the humour that Javvad and I of course used!

One of the main topics we discussed was that of the position of the CISO within the organisation and the influence that this subsequently brings. Ultimately my position is clear on this, that the CISO needs to be as high in the organisation, and as independent of vertical alignment as possible. What I mean by this is that if the CISO is on the board (or executive leadership team as appropriate) and does not report into the CFO, COO, CIO or any other C level executive there is a dramatically increased chance of security being a successfully managed activity in the enterprise. It ensures full representation of the security function at the most senior levels, free of conflicts of interest and able to vie for budget and attention on an equal footing with the rest of the business units.

I will caveat this however. If there is no security function in place or it is in its nascent stages, or the business itself is smaller, it makes absolute sense to have the security function perhaps initially reporting into the CIO; in all likelihood the staff building the team will come from IT anyway. However, as the team grows it needs to evolve its leadership and position in the organisation, perhaps moving away from the IT function, to the COO and then ultimately to the board.

This transition is something that I have never seen planned in advance, and this is probably one of the fundamental reasons why the CISO and security function is constantly under represented in the modern enterprise as it struggles to gain independence. This will always result in poor awareness and training, lack of budget and lack of true top down security adoption as they compete for ever diminishing resources from lower down in the organisation.

One fairly unique place I have seen the security function is reporting into the General Counsel/Legal function. This I have seen work well as it is the GC that is traditionally responsible for the tracking and management of risks for the enterprise, and frequently has the ear of the CEO. I rarely see a conflict of interest with the security function either. This is not common though, and is likely to only be likely in the larger organisations that have a formal role of GC.

Bottom line, if the newly appointed CISO (i.e. a senior level position for a mature security team) reports into the CIO, then in reality, security is not going to function effectively in that organisation.

And finally (although not in chronological order), the BCS. It was the final presentation of “An Anatomy of a Risk Assessment” and it was (as far as I can tell) well received. Unfortunately the weather and lack of sandwiches post the even meant there was little time to mingle afterwards, but I have since received a number of favourable comments and of course connection requests on LinkedIn which is always heartening. I did however  feel I didn’t answer one of the questions at the end, about India, particularly well, and may have come across as a little disingenuous when nothing could be further from the truth. I hope my friends and colleagues from india will forgive me if they make it to the end of the video when I get hold of a copy (and post it here). As an aside I found an extremely flattering write up of the very first time I presented this in January last year. To the author at Acumin, thank you! http://acumin.wordpress.com/2012/02/

All in all, a very enjoyable and engaging kick off to 2013.

 

That was the week that was – RSA Conference Europe 2012

Having arrived at the Hilton Metropole on Monday lunchtime and finally left the hotel (virtually for the first time) on Friday morning, I am left with a sequence of mad, fascinating, zany, intriguing, bizarre, educational, alcoholic and downright enjoyable experiences. I knew what to expect having attended last year. In no particular order (except by which they fall out of my head) here are my high points, and occasional low points.

Meeting Wendy Nather (@451wendy) of the 451 Group  at last and having lunch with her and Kai Roer (@kairoer, and a constant and welcome companion throughout the week);Dinner at The White Swan with my fellow panellists/debate team, Christian Toon(@christiantoon), Geordie Stewart, Rowenna Fielding (@InfosecGeekLady), Kai Roer, Javvad Malik (@j4vv4d), Gemma Paterson (@GemmaPats) and Chris Batten (@Acumin), and supposedly talking about our debate the next day but actually just sharing inapproriate jokes (mostly led by Chris…); The actual debate itself, not a massive attendance although not only were we up against stiff competition numbers were down somewhat anyway; meeting my first bona fide infosec journalist John Leyden (@jleyden) of The Register as well as my second, Dan Raywood (@DanRaywood) of SC Magazine; Meeting James Lyne (@jameslyne) who is not only a genius but also has the audacity to be charming, funny and an all round lovely guy, goddamm him; Watching Christian Toon bluff his way into the Media/Analysts party on Tuesday night, and watch Javvad have to do nothing to get into the IOActive party on wednesday night because everyone knows him; spending nearly an hour chatting with Javvad talking about blogging, public speaking, charlatans and heroes and being very pleasantly surprised at how much we have in common on these topics; walking out of Bruce Schneiers keynote because I found it dull and unengaging which was a real disappointment; finally making my mind up about Ira Winkler after watching his presentation; wishing I wasn’t late for Josh Corman’s (@JoshCorman) keynote, watching Hugh Johnson again, a master of working the room and engaging his audience, and marvelling at what a thoroughly lovely guy he was; spending time with Brian Honan (@BrianHonan) again and always enjoying his funny yet surprisingly modest company; Eating Schawama’s with Javvad and @sirjester, and subsequently meeting the aforementioned James Lyne and Dan Haywood; failing to win a single thing in any of the prize draws, yet still coming back with five t-shirts and a bag of booty; Watching Javvad and Emma Tweet each other whilst standing side by side; Being amazed, yet finding myself also tweeting almost every 10 minutes in synchronisation with everyone else you happen to be with – what has this world come to?; getting beered up with Chritian Toon on Tuesday and not being able to work out why I feel so drunk and he seems so fresh. The next day it turns out he is nearly 15 years younger than me! I obviously look young for my age, and he the opposite!; Spending a fascinating 90 minutes with Josh Corman on Thursday night and being impressed with how genuine, non judgemental and actually concerned he is about our industry; receiving my first ever Friday Five’s in Twitter and seeing it suddenly explode with activity as everyone joined in, for 10 minutes!; Watching Javvad being awarded his RSA Rockstar t-shirt.

There are many other people I met, chatted with and discussed topics raised in the presentations that are just too numerous to mention. If I have missed you out I apologise profusely and blame my poor memory and being inundated with great times.

The photos throughout this article barely scratch the surface of the fun and educational experience of the week, and I am already looking forward to RSA 2013 in Amsterdam next year!

CSARN Organisational Resilience Conference

I was able to attend the City Security And Risk Network (CSARN) conference on organisational resilience today. It was a very well put together one day event with speakers from a broad range of companies and backgrounds such as the Police Force as well as military and traditional consultancies.

The key focus of the day though was of course on elements of organisational resilience such as incident and crisis management, the terrorist threat, global travel planning and the associated risks (in this case played against a backdrop of maintaining operations during the Arab Spring) and of course business continuity management. The speakers were knowledgable, and approachable during breaks for further questions. Justin Crump did a cracking job of maintaining order throughout the day and ensuring the audience was engaging well with the speakers.

Halfway through the day there was a panel discussion focussed on “building and embedding effective cyber security structures”, and I was pleasantly surprised to have been asked last week to be on the panel itself. (Cue jokes for how far down the list they had to go before they got to me etc…). Also on the panel with me was Geordie Stewart (who I am also speaking with at RSA and Paul Simmonds (Co-editor, Cloud Security Alliance “Guidance” v3 Co-founder & Board of Management, Jericho Forum Former CISO, AstraZeneca). I felt it came across as a very well balanced discussion, with some very insightful and focussed questions from the audience. I had been primed that the audience was not that well versed in all things “cyber”, but that didn’t really come across which made for a very enjoyable and engaging discussion.

We covered topics such as sources of cybercrime (state sponsored, organised crime and so called chaotic actors), what our thoughts were on the biggest threats coming out of the “cyber” threat and what we could be doing better at international levels. When each asked what the single take away from the discussion, mine was a rather glib, if valid, “plan for failure”; another strong take away to my mind was “get the basics right, everything else comes second”. Again, it sounds glib and from the school of the bleeding obvious, but over complicating any challenge is so easily done.

If I had one piece of critical feedback (well, two actually) it was that towards the end the presentations seemed to move into blatant sales pitches; now I understand sponsors need to get a return on their sponsorship, but it was the wrong forum to my mind for sales pitches. Secondly, I wouldn’t do something like this again on a Friday; it felt like half the audience had left come 2 o’clock, which can’t have helped the afternoon speakers at all!

I thoroughly enjoyed myself though, have some great key takeaways specifically for my business continuity planning, and I hope have planted the seeds of being able to return again in the future as a solo speaker!

My thanks to Acumin and CSARN for giving me the opportunity to be on their panel, especially alongside two people whom I admire in the industry.

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