why security pros fail – seven problems

Another old CSOOnline article link I’ve had sitting around is, “Why security pros fail (and what to do about it).” Per usual, here are bullets points and my reactions. Yes, this starts out juicy and hot.

Problem #1: Security Is Thought of as a Disabler – Yes, a touchy subject. When you talk to your local law enforcement, do you think they give a shit whether they’re an enabler or getting in the way of criminals? I’ll give a hint: they don’t get evaluated on their customer service report cards. Basically, I hate the lie we tell ourselves about being enablers. We *do* get in the way. Deal with it.

That’s not to say we should say no and say it proudly and fiercely, and I think the author would ultimately agree with me. We should be involved in business decisions and give guidance as necessary. This is as much an operations or leadership issue as security, though.

This is one place compliance is a good thing: We can point to requirements and use them to say no to things. You want to go to the cloud and that provider doesn’t use SSL or other controls to protect data-in-motion? Our requirements say no.

Yes, talking about enabler vs getting in the way is a touchy subject with me. We ultimately need to deal with the fact that security gets in the way by definition. And move on.

Problem #2: Security Offers Only One Solution – I like this bullet point, and it’s a great approach. As security people, we need to give the low-down on what a perfect situation may require, including the risks. But we should also give a dose or practicality and realism into our discussion. Yes, we could segment the shit out of the network, but we know that’s costly in many ways, but here’s what we’d realistically like to see…

Problem #3: Not Enough Humble Pie – Ok, another touchy subject is that of railing against FUD. In a way, railing against FUD *is* FUD, when you really sit down and get philosophical about it. This is another topic we have to accept and move the fuck on about. Yes, some people/vendors do take this to extremes, but please feel free to let them; sometimes we’re expecting them to since maybe we didn’t know about a particular threat until now. This does underline the need to inject practicality into discussions, though. Sadly, this good bullet point forgot its place and shouldn’t have injected the FUD distration.

Problem #4: Believing the Customer Is Clueless – I don’t actually get this bullet point at all and it probably requires context on his sources and their experiences and what they’re specifically talking about. There are many times where a customer *is* clueless; why else would they bring in outside help? And just because they opt to not listen to certain suggestions, doesn’t mean everyone is failing and dumb; just because you told me not to bet on RED for this spin, doesn’t mean I am stupid if I do anyway. That’s part of the Big Gamble in security.

Problem 5: Personal Cyber Ethics: Are You An Insider Threat? – Not sure I get this bullet point either, and sounds like a source had a personal situation with it. Every insider has ethics temptations. We also should define what security pro is before getting too far into this discussion. Does this include professional consultants or full-disclosure anonymous security “researchers?” I do believe there is a certain level of being above certain restrictions at work, that “normal” users are subjected to. But that is true about any technical or administrative or leadership position. I’m not saying they should be expempt from everything, but this bullet point discussion itself is a bad slippery slope. (A CSO shouldn’t have much more access than any other C-level anyway…)

Problem 6: Career Burnout – This is a great problem to bring up, but the handling of it in this bullet is trash. Security is a high stress IT job, to be honest, for a variety of reasons (you’ll never win, you always have to educate, you’ll never get exactly what you want, you need to be an expert in many things…). No discussion about this should exclude the idea that maybe the career is not for you, if you’re feeling excessively burnt out. And figure out and pursue what makes you happy.

Problem 7: Career Perspective Stuck in a Box – I like this item, but part of it doesn’t sit well with me. I think we again have to define security pro: are we talking a middle-manager-like policymaker or someone in the trenches? That will dictate a huge difference in making efforts in the 5 preferred skills areas (attitude, relationsip, equipping, leadership, technical). I suppose this is in CSOOnline and thus more about CSOs…in which case, I agree.

It might sound like I have an issue with this article, but I really don’t. I like the discussion and bullets, and am just being extra contrarian today.