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Awareness Is Not a Verb!

By Dan Hadaway | Wednesday, March 11, 2015 - Leave a Comment

But “test” is an action verb!


and your approach could “Turn Awareness Inward.”

Another one of those Dan’s New Leaf Posts, meant to inspire thought about IT Governance . . . .

“With all we have going on, our auditors are not letting us abandon the Awareness Training Thing.  They aren’t treating it as a “one-off.”  We can’t just cross it off the list.  We have to keep feeding it, as if it was a monster!”

                                           – Disgruntled Trainer

One thing we can take heart with is that awareness is a state of being.  We are always in a “state of awareness.”  Because our employees are always aware, our job is to direct that awareness to threats and vulnerabilities, when we explain WHY controls exist.  So no, we can not cross it off a list, because we need to continually activate it and make sure that we’re adjusting to new situations . . . new threats and new vulnerabilities.

But it doesn’t need to be that hard.  Since our employees are always aware of something, we simply just need to make sure our employees are “listening” for the right things, especially when in a “control situation.”

What is a “control situation?”

A control situation is an event where we are being asked to “apply certain controls.”  I propose that we “heighten our awareness” whenever we are in a “control situation.”  This is a paramount of safety.  For example, when I’m passing a car, I’m in a “control situation.”  There are certain controls I have learned . . . . and made habit . . . that must be applied prior to passing the car.  I check to make sure nobody is coming, I make sure I’m in a safe passing zone (that I’m not on a hill or a curve, etc.)  But not only am I applying these controls by habit, my awareness is heightened . . . . I know that, when I see the school bus approaching in the distance, there must be an unmarked intersection up there, and thus I adjust.  (The best way to control a technology is to avoid using it . . . . see my upcoming American Monkey Trap article!)  And thus, when I see the bus, I sit back in my seat, slow down, and choose not to pass (at least until I’ve passed the intersection!)

———-

Do you scoot up to the edge of your seat when you read e-mail?

My point is this:  When I’m reading e-mail, I’m in a “control situation.”  When I’m being asked to share information, I am in a “control situation.”  When I’m logging into an information asset, I’m in a “control situation.”   When I receive an attachment from somebody that I’m not expecting . . . . I’m in a “control situation” within a “control situation.”  Perhaps I should scoot up to the edge of my seat when this happens!  Or at least to the telephone!

I’ve long maintained that awareness is three things:  Not just education, but also motivation and activation.  Most people start out by teaching their employees “the controls.”  The trainer that feels I’ve created a monster wants to just dive right in.  She has resisted using social engineering tests in the overall Awareness Training Program.  She doesn’t want to frighten anybody, and she is very concerned about embarrassing the wrong people.

Fair enough.  But we still need to expose them to a stark reality: they are at risk!

Again, it’s about habits and disciplines.  Our employees are always aware . . . . always listening . . . . and our job is to help them choose to listen to certain  things.  So I propose we enlighten, and not frighten, our users.  Start with a test where you don’t have to reveal any names.  But show how easy it is to break through defenses when controls are not enforced.  And show that breaking through those defenses is a “control situation.”

Start by demonstrating there are threats exploiting vulnerabilities.  By starting with a test, we put that trainer in a position where she can say:

“Here’s an example of a threat that exploited a vulnerability named YOU.  Yes, last month X% of us gave an infotex auditor their user name and password because she asked for it.  This attack . . .  that just happened fortunately in a test . . .  this attack is a ‘control situation.’  

There are many control situations which you must be aware of.”

By first teaching our employees that control situations exist, rather than just teaching them the controls, they will turn awareness inward, and on their own they will start getting into the habit of heightening their awareness.  By starting out with a demonstration that threats exploit vulnerabilities in these situations, and thus the existence of these controls (and then what the controls are) . . . . we will get more value from the educational process.

For what we really need to accomplish is not simply the adoption of controls.  We need to put our employees in a new state of being, a state of awareness, that is heightened when they find themselves in a control situation, just as if they were passing a car.


Original article by Dan Hadaway CRISC CISA CISM. Founder and Managing Partner, infotex

“Dan’s New Leaf” is a “fun blog to inspire thought in the area of IT Governance.”

 


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