Looking Beyond the Surface of Security Culture

By   Professor John Walker
Visiting Professor , Trent University (NTU) | Aug 21, 2014 05:02 pm PST

In your opinion, what are 3 key elements to succeed in a positive security culture, and what tips can you provide to implement change, successfully?

To place this question into a quantifiable stack amounting to just three critical elements may be considered a difficult challenge within the complex world of what we now refer to as cyber. But that said, let us pick on the three cornerstones of our security table, acknowledging that our fourth corner should represent common sense (which of course should be re-branded “rare sense”).

Element Number 1 is without doubt to rid our total reliance on convention, all the while becoming more proficient in seeking out the unknown unknowns and developing our capacity to be predictive. In other words, we should not limit our purview to that which we know; we must look closer, wider, deeper, and higher to gain a glimpse of what may be coming at us in the future.

Number 2 in the element stack is that of main board support. We hear it all of the time, but sadly, in a majority of cases, this is hot-gas that is spouted in order to present a better case to the shareholder, media, or other externally interested parties. If such support is in place and you do decide to mention it, assure it is realistic and engaged.

And then at Number 3 we have that old topic of skill. Do not for one moment think that if someone can roll out words like pen testing, the ISO, obfuscation, or data privacy, it makes then a valuable candidate for looking after your cyber trinkets. This person has so far only proven themselves to be a good salesman and possibly an exceptional social engineer.  So when you are looking to enhance the security team by bringing on capable people, make sure your new employees understand your team’s functions and duties at a level which will augment your productivity and not hinder the organization’s overall security with meaningless or even dangerous lip-service.

To close, I recall some years ago a question that was posed to a CTO on TV. When asked “Are we winning the battle against the hackers and bad guys?” the CTO responded “Yes, I rest my case on this testament to self-promoted arrogance to pay lip service to fact.”

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