Babel Fish

Risk Register: The Only Way to Talk to the Board

Ever wondered how really effective cybersecurity professionals not only get direct access to the CEO / Board of Directors (BoD), but actually manage to get a budget out of them? Better even than that, they get the entire C-Suite to evangelise the organisation’s security program on their behalf!

It’s quite easy actually, they speak the same language as the CEO / BoD. This is not the language of security, it’s the language of business goals. Or to put it crassly, it’s the language of money.

For example, if you are a CSO / CISO and have reported to your Board how many malware attacks your controls blocked, or how well your firewall is working I’m surprised you still have a job. The vast majority of Board members care nothing for the detail, and frankly, nor should they. As much as I have preached about how the CEO /BoD should care about security, what I’m really saying is that they should at least appear to care.

The only ones who actually care about cybersecurity [for its own sake] are those with a vested interest. Practitioners, consultants, and especially product vendors, all say they are passionate about security. They may well be, but as an analogy, are you ever passionate about your car insurance? No, of course not, quite the opposite, you just know you have to have it.

Security is no different to insurance in this respect, it’s not like sales or marketing where there is an obvious correlation between the effort and result. With security, the effects are invariably seen only when things have gone horribly wrong. Even then, the Board don’t care about security itself, they care about how the failure of security affected the bottom line. Coincidently, this is often when they start asking all the wrong questions and throw money at the symptoms not the root cause. Like hiring a CISO for example.

Even as one of those with a direct vested interest in security, I am absolutely fine with this. I know my place, which is to provide a direct link from the individual IT assets to the business’s goals. If I can’t show how a risk to the assets at my level can affect an entire business at theirs, how can I possible expect them to understand what I’m talking about? And to be clear, it’s my job to perform this translation, not theirs.

The Babel Fish that performs this modern day miracle? The Risk Register.

I’d say about 75% of organisations I’ve helped over the years have no risk register at all, 20% have only a business risk register, and the remaining 5% have separate business and IT registers. Not one has a single register that maps the IT risks to the business goals. Not one. Worse is the fact that all of these risk registers were very poorly conceived and resulting in nothing but poor decision-making.

The single risk register I’m talking about is the one where anyone can view their part of it and determine exactly how their actions can affect the whole. Does this mythical creature even exist!?

So how DO you map assets to business goals?

Like everything else in security, it’s actually simple. Bloody difficult, but simple.

Step 1: Do Asset Management Properly – I can already exclude every organisation I worked with, and I’ve only heard rumours of this being done well. Basically, if you don’t know what you’ve got, you can’t manage it, let alone perform any step that follows;

Step 2: Map Your Assets to Your Business Processes – I am often amazed that asset dependencies are not fully mapped. How do you perform change control properly if you have no idea how you’re impacting the business process that the changing assets support? How can you prioritise assets? Dependencies, inter-dependencies and data flows must be fully defined;

Step 3: Perform a Business Impact Analysis on Every Business Processes – If you can’t even take a stab at valuing each of your business processes, how can you prioritise them? Whether you can directly quantify them (e.g. revenue) or only qualify them (e.g. HR) you have to know what they are worth to you;

Step 4: Map Your Business Processes to Your Business Goals – This can be tricky as you’re going from the 100% technical to the 100% business. But if you have no idea whether or not your goals are achievable with your current assets, they aren’t very good goals, are they?

In theory and for example, you now know that if a certain database is lost; a) the business process that will fail, b) the potential losses, and c) the goals that may now become unachievable. Not every goal obviously (e.g. M&A), but definitely the ones that got you this far.

So, when you next talk to the BoD, you can show them the possible impact of not spending money on database redundancy where it hurts the most

Their pockets.

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Ignorance

How to Run a GDPR Project

First: If you think that as a cybersecurity ‘expert’ I know how to run a GDPR project a) you can’t be that familiar with GDPR, and b) you have not read any of my previous blogs.

Second: If you have read my previous blogs and clicked into this blog hoping to get advice on how to run a GDPR project, you weren’t ‘listening’. At most I am a first conversation and a pointer to your next.

Then again, would you be reading this right now if the title was; “GDPR: No Idea What I’m Doing, But Here’s Yet Another Opinion.”?

So like everyone else on this little regulatory bandwagon – with the possible exception of privacy lawyers – all I have are opinions, and what I hope is a little common sense. Here in the UK for example, the GDPR is just an expansion of the Data Protection Act of 1998, which in turn was a consolidation of previous acts, some dating back to 1984. And if that’s not enough, ‘The Guidelines on the Protection of Privacy and Transborder Flows of Personal Data‘ published in 1980 by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development (OECD) contained many of the basic tenets upon which the GDPR is predicated:

  1. Collection Limitation Principle;
  2. Data Quality Principle;
  3. Purpose Specification Principle;
  4. Use Limitation Principle;
  5. Security Safeguards Principle …and so on.

That means privacy lawyers have had 37 years to get good at this stuff and pass it on to all fledgling privacy lawyers. The rest of us may have some knowledge, but this will only ever be enough to overlap with the legal profession. This overlap will then hopefully enable us to translate the lawyer’s legalese into a language relevant to our respective departments. This is actually critical to GDPR implementation as lawyers do NOT have the final say, it will always be a negotiation.

Why is this not enough? Why would any non-lawyer even want the task of applying GDPR’s Recitals and Articles into a business’s specific context? Do you think you’ll make enough money to retire before you’re discovered as an incompetent? I have never seen a clearer case for a team effort.

The GDPR Implementation Team

  1. The Lawyer – For some reason everyone assumes that when I say lawyers should lead the effort, they come back with expressions of horror. “Lawyers can’t project manage!”, “Lawyers can’t operationalise GDPR!” and so on. By lead, I mean setting the goals and objectives. You know, leading, not managing. Only lawyers are truly qualified to provide proper context, so they should make their case first.
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  2. The Salesman – Like it or not, GDPR will have an impact on your business. Leave the sales team out and you have ruined any chance you have of making that impact a positive one.
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  3. The Marketer – As with the salesman, there is no reason that ‘compliance’ with GDPR can’t have a positive impact on an organisation, even its bottom line. The marketing / PR spin is the face of your efforts.
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  4. The People Person – Sounds better than the HR person, but I have never understood why these folks have so little part in projects like this. They are the Keepers of the Culture, use them.
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  5. The Technologist – While there is very little directly related to technology in the GDPR, it’s clear that technology has a huge role to play in its implementation. There is not compliance without the IT team.
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  6. The Project Manager – This one needs no explanation
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  7. The Cyber-Peep – Where there is data and technology, there is a need for security wrappers, but this role is no more critical than the others. That’s like saying the wheels are the most important part of a car.

And yes, if there are other departments they should be included too. Privacy cannot be siloed.

What’s missing is something to bring it all together. If only there was an organisational function that took the input from all of these departments and stakeholders and formulated a plan to accomplish the business’s goals! Wait, sounds a lot like Governance, doesn’t it?

It’s already far too late to be proactive, but you have until the 25th of May, 2018 to appear to be proactive. Get your team together and don’t waste this opportunity.

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Top 10

Froud on Fraud’s Top 10 Cybersecurity Technologies to Implement in 2017

In direct response to a certain organisation’s ‘Top 10 Cyber Security Technologies to Watch in 2017’, [cough, Gartner, cough], I have come up my own list of bleeding edge security technologies that every organisation should spend millions of $/£/€/¥ on.

Yes, even if you don’t MAKE millions, you should borrow the money and buy them anyway.

Being honest, my fight to bring security ‘back to basics’ has failed – despite my enormous 210 person following – so I have decided to sell-out and promote nothing except buzz-phrases and acronyms. You know, like everyone else.

However, I am convinced that if you buy, implement, and actually take these technologies seriously, you can forget the security basics. The combination of these 10, never-seen-before, shiny new objects will provide the silver bullet you’re looking for:

  1. Directorate Approbation Paradigm (DAP) – Historically, achieving ‘management buy-in‘ was the ultimate goal for anyone attempting to implement a security program. Quite rightly, caring about the future of an organisation was considered naive, and proponents of this stone-aged technology were left begging for work on LinkedIn. Some of these poor souls even became CISOs. Now, with DAP technology, every single person in an organisation will take security seriously, even if their bosses don’t!
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  2. Command & Control Commission (CCC) – While not strictly a technology the CCC is responsible taking the output from the EIC below, combining it with the DAP above and obtaining the budget to buy everything else on this list. This is the spider in the middle of the web, making sure that all technologies work together. Called ‘governance‘ in the old days, the new CCC is clearly superior given that you’ve never heard of it, and it’s an acronym.
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  3. Protocol, Method, & Archetype Orchestrator (PMAO) – Much as leeches were seen as the go-to technology in medieval medicine, ‘policies, procedures and standards‘ were seen as a foundation for every security program. While clearly nothing more than a quaint superstition, they nevertheless laid the groundwork for the PMAO revolution. Imagine it; a series of artefacts designed to record not only an organisation’s entire security culture, but their process knowledge and system baselines as well! No way just policies, procedures and standards could do all of that!
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  4. Exposure Investigation & Computation (EIC) – I almost feel sorry for the poor saps who only had the ‘risk assessment‘ process to measure their risk profile. Can you imagine basing you risk treatment and technology purchasing decisions only on expert opinion and business goals!? Instead, EIC, in combination with AI, big data, The Cloud, and fairy dust, can tell you exactly how many millions to spend on technology! No more embarrassing moments when you try to explain to your boss how you tried to save them money by fixing the actual problem! Like people and process could ever be the problem!
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  5. Intelligence Preservation Administration Schema (IPAS) – Can you imagine the nerve of the International Standards Organisation when they came up with the Information Security Management System (ISMS)? A so-called ‘framework’ designed for “systematically managing an organization’s sensitive data” with – and you won’t believe this- “a set of policies and procedures”! How naive! Instead, with IPAS, you can basically ignore the hard work and common sense approach to doing security properly and hide behind an expensive appliance with flashing green lights! Blinking green, you know it’s working!
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  6. Transformation Regulation Authority (TAR) – Before the advent of TAR technology, organisations across the globe relied on a ‘change control board’ to ensure that unmeasured risk was not introduced into an environment. As yes, once again, actual humans – apparently those with ‘expert’ knowledge – were allowed to determine what was right for the business. A clearer case could not be made to put this in the safe ‘hands’ of technology written by someone else.
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  7. Episode Reply & Adversity Restoration (ERAR) – We’ve all seen those commercials from the 50’s where attractive actors extolled the virtues of smoking? Well, ‘incident response & disaster recovery‘ were just as misleading, and just as dangerous! Like anything involving people and process could possibly help you stay in business! ERAR on the other hand, will not only detect bad things happening, it will keep your business up and running! Surely THAT’S worth a few million all by itself!!
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  8. Capital Durability Projection (CDP) – The future of any organisation should never be placed in the hands of those who care. The experiment called corporate social responsibility failed because it was assumed that it’s the people who are the most important aspect of a business. At least now we know it’s money that’s most important, so the old concept of ‘business continuity planning’ can be replaced by EDC and those making the world better with technology. Finally the people can be safely ignored.
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  9. Asset Management (AM) – This is one aspect of security where technology is actually sadly lacking. Asset management is the centre of everything, and without it, no other aspect can be truly be done well. Spreadsheets just don’t cut it, and no GRC that I’ve seen gives asset management its due. This much change, even in The Cloud.
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  10. Continuous Compliance Validation (CCV) – This is an idea whose time has come, it’s about time technology provides a REAL solution to overly manual processes.

All facetiousness aside, I am a huge fan of technology. Or more accurately, I am a huge fan of the appropriate application of technology. If you buy something based on anything other than 1) the results of your risk assessment, and 2) answers to the RIGHT questions, you have no business being in charge of a budget.

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Policies & Procedures

Information Security Policy Set: It All Starts Here

Information Security Policies, or more accurately; Policies, Standards, & Procedures (a Policy Set) are the cornerstone of every security program. It is therefore rather odd, that not one client I have ever helped started with any of them in place. While not everyone is a security expert, everyone can be security savvy enough if, and ONLY if, what they are supposed to do is written down!

That’s what a good Policy Set is; an instruction manual on what to do, what not to do, why, and how.

I have written too many many times on why a good Policy Set is important, and have used the term ‘baseline’ more times than I’ve had hot dinners. I have described what a Policy Set consists of, and even how to manage one, but what I have not do up till now was to describe how to find a Policy Set that’s right for your business.

First, you may be wondering what’s so hard about finding policies. And I agree; type “information security policy example” into Google and you’ll get tens of millions of hits. Universities readily publish theirs for the world to see (e.g University of Bristol), and a whole host of organisations even make editable versions freely available. On top of that, online services with ridiculous promises like “THE ONLY WAY TO GET AN INFORMATION SECURITY POLICY CUSTOMIZED FOR YOU IN AN HOUR, GUARANTEED.” are depressingly common.

The challenge is that if you’re looking for information security policies in this fashion you clearly have no experience implementing them, let alone actually writing one yourself. An overly-dramatic analogy; I found thousands of instructions on emergency appendectomies, would you now trust me to perform one on you? A good Policy Set is one that is appropriate to your business. Not your industry sector, not the prevailing regulatory requirement, your business!

Therefore, if you don’t have security expertise in-house, it is very unlikely that you know the right questions to asks providers of Policy Sets. The vast majority of vendors will sell you what you ask for (can’t really blame them for this), so ensuring you get what you actually need is entirely based on the homework you performed beforehand.

To that end I have written something vaguely resembling a white paper to help you. In the imaginatively named ‘Choosing the Right Policy Set‘ I have broken the choosing of a policy set vendor into 15 Questions. These could easily form the core of an RFI or RFP if you were taking this seriously enough.

Simple questions like; “Can you provide a Document Management Standard and Procedure?” or “Does your service include a mapping of policy statements to the PCI DSS?” are sometimes not even considered. But when you consider that the choosing of a policy set can be the difference between compliance and non-compliance, it makes sense to ask them. Up front!

90% of organisation will end up either throwing something together themselves, or buying the cheapest option available. That’s fine, when regulatory fines start getting handed out they will realise just how expensive their choice was.

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Change Control

Change Control: Break the Vicious Cycle

Have you ever tried to fill a colander with water? Of course not, that would be ridiculous given that it’s full of holes. So why would you try to implement a security program without ensuring that whatever you fix does not get broken behind you?

Do you give your IT administrators permission to change the setting on your personal phone? Again, of course not, so why would you allow them to make significant changes to corporate assets without proper oversight?

While these analogies are flippant and geared toward emphasising my point, I would not be writing this blog if the issue of change control was not an enormously important one. At best, poor change control can cause additional unnecessary work, at worst you could be out of business. It’s bad enough that bad guys want to break in, most organisations I have seen are making it easier for them from the inside.

The definition of change control is; “…a systematic approach to managing all changes made to a product or system.“, and it’s purpose is “…to ensure that no unnecessary changes are made, that all changes are documented, that services are not unnecessarily disrupted and that resources are used efficiently.” Sounds fair, right? No disruption? Efficient? Are these not good things?

The biggest issue is that change control requires not only planning, but extra effort. You have to fill out a form, send an email, or log into a GUI of some sort, all of which may take longer than making the change in the first place. Change control is time-consuming and can be seen as a bottleneck, both of which are no-nos in the rapid evolution towards more and more function. But what would you rather have; 1) an insecure service quickly, or 2) a secure service a very short time later?

Unfortunately, given that change control is a primary function of governance, few organisations have the oversight to implement change control well. so how can organisation perform this most critical of processes?

First, it has to be appropriate. There is little point in a 5 person company buying a change control software, but larger organisations should not be using email and spreadsheets. As long as the right people are involved in making the change decisions, this process can be as formal or informal as is sustainable. If this is ever seen as a burden, it will be either circumvented, or ignored altogether.

Often overlooked, but critical to change control success, are a few pre-requisites…

Change Control Pre-Requisites:

  1. Ensure that the asset register contains not only physical devices, but applications, CotS software, data stores, location, unique skill-sets etc.
  2. Assign business criticality and maximum data classification to all assets;
  3. Assign ownership to all assets;
  4. Map all assets to the business processes they support (note: these maps becomes assets in and of themselves); and
  5. Ensure that the change request form includes a list of the affected assets.

Change Control Form:

Every change request must, at a minimum, include these things.

  1. List of affected systems;
  2. Details related to affected users (if applicable);
  3. Criticality of change request;
  4. Indication of additional risk;
  5. Success criteria / test plan;
  6. Back-out or fix-forward plan; and
  7. Appropriate authorisation.

By mapping the affected asset to their corresponding business processes, their owners, and both their criticality and maximum data classification, you can automatically bring the right decision maker to bear to authorise the change.

Too often the business owners have little to no insight to technology changes, when in reality, they are the only ones who should be authorising the change. IT and IS are, and have always been, business enablers, nothing more. First and foremost, change control need to reflect the goals of the business. In the absence of governance, the above minimums are about the only way to see that this happens.

Of course, if you also link change control to your ticketing system and incident response processes you would have the Holy Grail, but baby steps…

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