The Main Takeaway from Anthem . . .
And the primary cause of information security failures everywhere!
Another one of those Dan’s New Leaf Posts, meant to inspire thought about IT Governance . . . .
I’m a Zig Ziglar fan. Have always been, since I put the first Zig Ziglar tape (See You at the Top) into my cassette deck in my Pontiac Sunbird sometime in 1984 or 1985.
And one of my favorite sayings by Zig is this:
“Fear is usually just False Evidence Appearing Real!”
– Zig Ziglar
But believe it or not, the quote is not originally by Zig Ziglar. He just popularized it. And I’m sure Zig gave credit for it to the person to originally uttered it (Neale Donald Walsch), but I and millions of other Zig fans didn’t pick that up, or at least I didn’t remember that until I decided to write about it.
So though the saying is kind of a perverse form of accidental identity theft, I’ve relied on it since the mid-1980’s to help me overcome procrastination, get ready to give speeches, and dial into incident response meetings. And it is true, fear is indeed often false evidence appearing real. Every time I give a talk, that nervousness I feel is false evidence appearing real. I’m not going to flop. People will not boo at me. Some people will even give me a good evaluation. And so I’ve learned to ignore that kind of fear.
And what Zig Ziglar preached is true: Fear causes millions to stop pursuing their dreams, and millions more to lead lives hampered by neuroses.
Now, fear is neither a bad or a good thing. It can be good in some situations, and bad in others. But it should at least be based upon reality, and not “false evidence.” If not, it is a “wrong type of fear.”
And I have discovered there is an opposite to fear. Or at least to the “wrong type of fear.” And that’s a False Sense of Security. I originally found this in myself back in those same 1980’s when we were very proud of our technology and totally oblivious to the many surprise negatives it would introduce to us (until we finally got out in front of it in 1989 and conducted our first Risk Assessment.)
But having a false sense of security causes one to proceed thinking that threats can not exploit vulnerabilities. It is the worse position to be in, from a risk management perspective, because not only are you making an incident more likely, you are also lowering your ability to respond to the incident when it does manifest itself.
I have always hated and fought against a False Sense of Security. Ask my wife: I get irritated every time my Volkswagen EOS automatically locks (when I didn’t tell it to) because I feel that gives EOS drivers a “false sense of security.” It’s the only thing I don’t like about my little car.
And so let me point out exactly what has caused all of the drumbeats on this recent “Cadence of Breach News.” The one thing that ties Target, Home Depot, Nieman Marcus, Dairy Queen, Sony, and now Anthem together is that their top executives “thought we were secure.”
Google “we thought we were secure” and you will get 82,500,000 hits. Now, this does not necessary mean that more than 82 million times somebody at the top claimed ignorance. But we should be able to derive from this that a lot of executives are making the claim, “we thought we were secure.”
Is this claim still being made at your organization?
As an Information Security Officer, we are supposed to establish a “Security Culture” in our organization. But even if we could define what that means, we ISOs are simply not the ones who establish culture in our organization.
And thus, we need to help our top executives understand that the opposite of fear is “we thought we were secure.”
Your executives need to know intuitively that a false sense of security could destroy your ability to provide customer service by establishing good logistics so your accountants can count all those profits.
Because unlike fear, where’s the false evidence with Information Security? We have very little evidence to go by when we say “we’re secure.”
And unfortunately we hear executives say it all the time. Even after they’ve been breached.
I think it might be safe to propose this: “If the person at the top of your organization thinks you are secure, you do not have a security culture.” What you have is a false sense of security. The number one fundamental of information security is that there is no such thing as information security. The person at the top of your organization needs to understand this, and then you can establish your culture.
Now, if this article is only going to point out the obvious, then it shouldn’t be named Dan’s New Leaf. So I will leave you with the following seven-point approach to establishing the BEGINNING of a security culture in your organization.
- Schedule a meeting with the person at the pinnacle of your organization. This might be your President, it could be your CEO. It would NOT be your EVP. Let’s call this person “the Pinnacle.” This person needs to be “the top executive.” No lower.
- Convince the Pinnacle that your organization is NOT secure. This may take more than one meeting. You might need to hire somebody (like an auditor) to breach your organization, and then hold the meeting again.
- Once the Pinnacle wakes up, help the person understand THIS IS OKAY, because there is NO SUCH THING as information security.
- Help the Pinnacle understand that Information Security is more about becoming aware than anything else, and this awareness must start at the top.
- Help the Pinnacle understand that the easiest way to become aware in an effective, prioritized fashion is by conducting a risk assessment.
- Get the person to agree that she or he MUST be involved in that risk assessment. Even if the sky is falling, even if the world may come to an end if this person pulls themselves away from the day-to-day fight in the “real business processes” like customer service and accounting and logistics and such . . . .
- Get the person to send the e-mail announcing the kickoff meeting for the risk assessment.
Yes, my point is this: you will not succeed as an Information Security Officer until your top executive succeeds as a Risk Manager!
Original article by Dan Hadaway CRISC CISA CISM. Founder and Managing Partner, infotex
Dans New Leaf is a fun blog to inspire thought in the area of IT Governance.