A late start back to 2014

YEAR+IN+REVIEW1This time last year I posted a WordPress summary of my blog and stated I was going to focus on “growth” for 2013. Fortunately WordPress sent the same summary as last year and so I am very pleased to say that I have achieved that, certainly in regards to posts, content and followers.

It was a hugely busy year as regards me and this growth, with just some of the highlights including;

* Establishing Host Unknown alongside Andrew Agnes and Javvad Malik, and making a start in showing that security education really doesn’t have to be dull.
* The opportunity to be a mentor to Gavin Holt for the Rookie track at BSides. Gavin is an extremely talented and intelligent InfoSec professional and I was thrilled to have been able to help him present.
* The inaugral RANT conference and being able to play a part in the day for the lovely people at Acumin.
* Presenting at RSA Europe again.
* Getting involved with The Analogies Project, curated by the very talented Bruce Hallas,  in addition to being asked to be a regular contributor to the Iron Mountain Information Advantage blog.
* Winning Best Personal Security Blog at the inaugral European Security Bloggers Awards.

Combine the above (just the tip of the iceberg) with a dramatic increase in followers of the blog and of Twitter and an increase in the number of requests to present I am extremely pleased with 2013.

The word for 2014 therefore is “maintain”. Much as I would like to grow last years levels of activity it did cut into my day job quite considerably so I need to be a little more selective in my activities. That said, I have already presented at Securi-Tay3 in Dundee and have another one for the 451 Group in a few weeks. I will post something about Securi-Tay3 in a few days time when the videos have been published.

There are so many people to thank for the success of 2013, some of whom are mentioned above, but there are many others out there to whom I thank; I have very much been fortunate enough to stand on the shoulders of giants, allowing me to grow as a professional in the infosec field.

(View the full WordPress blog report here)

Moving forwards I have plenty of thoughts for content for this blog over the coming months so stay tuned for more details, and thank you for following me in 2013!


Risk Appetite – managing feast and famine

images-1I was able to attend the RANT forum a few nights ago, and watch an excellent presentation by Sarb Sembhi. However, and this is no insult to the speakers at the RANT forums (being one myself) the most valuable part of the evening is the socialising with colleagues and peers before and after.

I was talking to a couple of people who were recounting the challenges they face with their leadership regarding their risk management activities. I paraphrase greatly, but the gist of the issue was

Highlighting risks to them is all well and good, but then suddenly they tell us that another activity needs to be escalated up the risk matrix, or that there is a hot topic that they want pushed to the top of the risks list so it gets more attention. How are we supposed to manage a risk programme with any credibility when risks get artificially prioritised or de prioritised according to the mood of management?

We came to the conclusion that the risk appetite of the management team in question was a very flexible and fluid thing that changed quite frequently, and seemed entirely disconnected from the risk management activities being carried out.

This is a complex issue, and not one that can be solved in a single blog post, but there are a few guidelines and concepts that may be pertinent to heading off this kind of behaviour.

  1. Listen to them. On the whole an organisations management know what activities and changes will affect the business more than you. If they are highlighting something it is not to mess you around but because they are genuinely concerned about it. Look at your risk programme; does it squarely address the risks they are highlighting? Are they new risks, old risks, or poorly understood risks? Perhaps you have already found them and they need to be reviewed under the new light cast on it by management.
  2. Educate them. How much does your management team actually understand about the risk work you are doing? Do they really know what the scope of your remit is, how you go about finding risks, and more importantly how you measure them? ISO27005 is often described as an arbitary way of measuring risk, but it does a good job of explaining how you can approach and understand it. If you use that standard in your programme, make sure they understand how you measure them, and get their buy in to the approach. This way, when you disagree with their analysis of a “new” risk you can explain in agreed terms why.
  3. Use your governance structure. Your management team should only be looking at risks that are escalated to them, that is to say residual risks that are still considered as “high” (or whatever parlance you use). Every other risk below that should be managed and dealt with by the governance structure in place. Certain lower risks can be mitigated (managed, avoided or transferred) by people closer to that risk; a developer could change a portion of code, a project manager could remove or add contractors or a team member could go through more awareness training. Changing the course of a project or increasing the staffing costs by 50% is beyond their remit and they are therefore not able (or authorised) to treat them effectively; these risks get passed up your governance chain until they reach a point at which they can be dealt with. At the very top I would estimate they should be seeing no more than 0.1% of total risks escalated to them. Any more and it may be that the structure underneath is not doing their job.
  4. images-2Understand their appetite. One of the standard ISO 27005 risk acceptance approaches provides a matrices for what is acceptable and what isn’t. It is provided as an example only, and should not be used out of the box without considering the risk appetite of your organisation. If you are a risk averse organisation, the yellow and red band move down to the lower left, thereby meaning more “red” risks will need to be addressed. A risk taking organisation will move the green and yellow band up, thereby ensuring fewer “red” risks will need to be addressed. The risk profile of an organisation is something that is rarely understood by those that measure risk, and therein lies the problem. Only if the risk profile is drawn up, understood (including the approach to measure the risks in the first place) and signed off can risks be identified, “measured” and addressed in a way that meets the organisations business objectives.
  5. Accept that the appetite changes. if you review your risks annually (as a bare minimum) that is also a cue to review the risk appetite. If incidents throughout the year affect the business for the good or bad, that is a cue to review the risk appetite. If the organisation management suddenly think something is a big risk and needs to be addressed, that is a cue to review the risk appetite. And when I say review, I mean with the management, and not just in isolation.

images

There… simple! Well, not at all when you face these challenges every day, but if you can start that dialogue with your management and start to understand the business as they understand it you will be a long way towards heading off the “the sky is falling, fix it now!” response to risks.


Taking RANT to New Levels

Noise Next Door giving conferences a new twist

Noise Next Door giving conferences a new twist

For a variety of reasons I have been unable to post here as frequently as I have liked, but the great advantage of attending a conference is that it does spur one into action to get something written down. Tuesday Jun 11th saw a new kind of conference come to town, the RANT conference. Based upon the monthly RANT forum there were only three individual speakers with the rest of the sessions effectively panel debates but with significantly more audience interaction encouraged.

There were a number of highlights for me, not least all of the people I met there, new friends and old. One of the big surprises for me was the opening keynote from Mark Stevenson of the League of Pragmatic Optimists. I thought it an odd choice of speaker, a futurologist, but very much enjoyed his talk once I got over myself. he looked at (amongst many other things)  how the digital revolution is changing our lives daily. What it came down to though is that despite the massive amount of change that has gone before us, the digital revolution is merely the cocktail sausage of dinner; we cannot begin to imagine what is around the corner.

I also enjoyed watching Javvad play up to his InfoSec rockstar status alongside Neira Jones and the irrepressible Stephen Bonner. It was unfortunate that the final panellist, Ed Gibson, killed the dynamic of the panel dead, changing what should have been an upbeat and funny session into a monologue of personal dislikes that crossed the line into embarrassing.  I thought Javvad played to his RockStar persona very well, but also presented how he made his way to the level of industry notoriety he currently enjoys and the benefits it actually brings to the industry. The serious point of them actually being ambassadors for infosec was quite rightly made. Unfortunately Ed did the same for the next panel on state sponsored espionage, killing what should have been a powerful insight into the topic given his background. I understand Ed is a very highly rated speaker, but on the evidence of yesterday I won’t be rushing to see him speak, and how he handled himself was unfair on the other panellists and indeed on us as an audience.

The Boy Band Strikes back

The Boy Band Strikes back

The rest of the day went very well though, with plenty of laughs with the University Challenged pitting the grey hairs of the industry against the students of Royal Holloway, and a session on security awareness that I was invited to participate in alongside Geordie Stewart, Charles Clarke, Christian Toon and my old mate Bruce Hallas. The reaction from the audience was very positive, with some great questions and opinions. We didn’t all agree, which is exactly what needs to happen; if we all agree, nothing changes, but if there is dissent then that can finally lead to actually driving change in the industry. On the whole it was well received and moderated nicely by Jim Shields, although someone did tweet that he thought the conversation was “same old same old re training me thinks” which is actually fair enough; I do think however that we can only stop talking about it when it is “fixed” (whatever that means!).

Stephen Bonner’s presentation was a distinct improvement upon what he presented at BSides, and was a thoroughly enjoyable rant, replete with chocolate missiles for the audience.

The excellent Twist and Shout were managing the video and photography, and shared many of their corporate training videos in the breaks between sessions that not only gave a very polished and slick feel to the whole day, but also some light relief.

Networking drinks were copious and enjoyable, and the dinner was excellent with after dinner entertainment from Jim Shields in his stand up comedian alter ego and an improv comedy troupe Noise next Door. A fuzzy head this morning tells me I had perhaps a little too much fun.

It was an awesome conference overall, and I hope to see it grow and become part of the established circuit. The format can only get better as while there is a place for the traditional presentation of one person delivering content and then taking some questions has its place, there is a huge advantage to the RANT approach. It allows the audience to engage far more effectively and I would hazard a guess that the audience actually retains more than the standard 20% of content afterwards. Huge congratulations to Acumin for not only making it happen, but also for ensuring it was as free from the commercialisation of so many other vendor driven events, a hugely refreshing approach. The biggest congratulation of the day though must go to Gemma for making it happen.

photo[5]


RANT Panel Debate: “Should You Train Your Users on Security Awareness?”

I spent last night with five eloquent, passionate and above all opinionated colleagues arguing the pros and cons of security awareness training. We were doing this at the monthly Acumin RANT forum to a packed crowd who, as always, were not shy in holding back on their opinions.

The Crowd, who make RANT what it is!

The Crowd, who make RANT what it is!

We had two stand ins replacing Christian Toon and Kai Roer in the form of Bernadette Palmer and Andrew Agnes both of whom bought a huge amount of experience, opinion and humour to the evening. The lineup therefore was:

 For:

(The Award Winning) Javvad Malik, @j4vv4d

Bernadette Palmer

Andrew Agnes @sirjester

Against:

Myself

Geordie Stewart

Rowenna Fielding @infosecgeeklady

We did a standard pre vote just before starting (we garnered no votes and a lot of good natured laughs as expected!) and then we went straight into the standard For and Against cycle with me kicking off. Nobody had briefed me (or perhaps I hadn’t listened…) that we were reducing our standard six minutes each down to three! A quick reshuffle in my head and we were off. The photos may look like I am singing Karaoke, but beneath the entertaining exterior was my serious message!

I have posted my core arguments to this blog before so I won’t rehash them here again but what followed over the next eighty minutes was hugely interactive, passionate, thought provoking and hilarious! With a few dongle and fork gags thrown in this debate had everything! Of course there was no real conclusion but at the closing vote there was a small but very definite swing in our favour, hooray!

The Karaoke King!

The Karaoke King!

What I found the most interesting however was that on the whole our arguments converged; we all acknowledged that information security training as it stands now is simply not working. What we do with it however, was where the real debate lay. Do you throw the whole lot out and start form scratch or do you continue to try and fix what we have? I think this is the dilemma we need to face up to sooner rather than later in the industry, once of course we accept that our training programs don’t work. That part is where the industry needs the most help.

I normally try and stay around after these kinds of events and listen to other peoples opinions, gather feedback and generally mingle. Tonight however I had dinner with a few folks (@jimshout, @j4vv4d, @sirjester, @jee2uu) to discuss an upcoming project. More on that in the next few months but it was a productive and exciting evening overall.

Finally, there was some footage taken of the evening by Gemma of Acumin; like all my footage if it ever sees the light of day I will get it posted here as soon as possible! As always a huge thank you to Gemma, Simon, Chris et al from Acumin for not only making this happen but asking me to be a part of it.

Andrew Agnes

Andrew Agnes

Geordie Stewart

Geordie Stewart


10 Rules of Risk Management… In 10 Movie Quotes

I had an absolute blast last night presenting at the Acumin RANT forum (https://www.rantforum.com) on the topic of “10 Rules of Risk Management… In 10 Movie Quotes”. The premise was simple – people don’t remember rules or dull facts, but they do remember things that emotionally touch them in some way. Each quote and movie opened up a conversation on an aspect of risk management (although the term “rule” was a little inaccurate of course). Given it was the RANT forum, and I was competing for the attention of the audience against the allure of a free bar, there was plenty of opinion and discussion flowing around the room throughout. Hopefully a few of the points I was trying to make will have stuck as a result of quotes such as “You’re gonna need a bigger boat” or “I see dead people”.

I felt the audience engaged and participated throughout with lots of very verbal agreement and disagreement throughout, and it was exciting to be right at the centre of the maelstrom. If you have never been to a RANT before just imagine one person being surrounded by a large number of people only a few feet away; with your back to the projector screen, there is no lectern to hide behind and no stage to stand on. It’s do or die, and a  #Fail never far from your thoughts!

Not everyone agreed with the points I was making of course but that just generated further conversation. I had some excellent follow up conversations with a number of people, including a great idea for my next presentation which a stated up front I might shamelessly steal – I think i got his agreement that doing so was OK! I had some very positive feedback afterwards as well for which I am very appreciative of; if you are reading this and want to provide more feedback, of both kinds, then please do. Without wishing to sound too “new age”, feedback is a gift you can give someone that will allow them to grow and improve. Without it we continue to make mistakes and miss the opportunity to learn.

Gemma (from Acumin) and I tried something new this time as well, filming the presentation with two cameras. It will take me a few days to splice the footage together, but as soon as it is done I will have it posted here. I know some of those who attended were interested in both reviewing and sharing the footage, as well as the slides; these are below, as well as a slideshow of the deck. I use Keynote  for my presentations, so the PowerPoint conversion is never a true representation. If in doubt, use the PDF. Someone mentioned last night that they may want to link to the content here too. I have no objections to this, just credit me and don’t muck about with the content!

My thanks to Acumin for hosting the evening, and thank you to all of you who took part, especially the very lucky prize winners! (If you wanted a pen but didn’t get one let me know and I will do my best to send one to you).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Files for download:

PDF – 10 Rules of Risk Management

PPT – 10 Rules of Risk Management

Keynote – 10 Rules of Risk Management (native)

Movie from the evening – Coming Soon