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Marketing Skills for Security Wonks: Leveraging Elmer FUDd

By Mike Rothman

At the risk of having Rich yell at me again (like he did early last year) because I’m writing too much high-level stuff, let’s get back to a key soft skill of being a security manager. It’s not like we got a lot better at that in 2010, right? I talked about motivating your team earlier this week, so now let’s turn to marketing and sales. Right – you are a security guy/gal, what do you need to know about sales?

Well, unless your senior management comes to you with a blank check and a general understanding of how to protect your stuff, you need to map out a security program and sell it to them. If you end up with about 20% of the budget you need every year, and at layoff time you lose 40% of an already understaffed team, guess what? You have a sales problem. And that means you may have to get your Elmer FUDd on.

Be vewwy vewwy qwiet. I'm hunting hackews...A post by Dave Shackleford got me thinking about FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) from a user context. It’s a constant presence when dealing with vendors, who are always trying to scare their customers into buying something. But end users can leverage FUD as well. Just be careful – it’s a bit like using live exploits. You might get what you want, but in the process take down the entire system.

I’ve been talking for years about the need for security managers to focus on communications and leave the firewall rules to the admins. Part of that communication strategy is about creating urgency. Urgency gets things done. Urgency doesn’t allow folks to debate and get into an analysis/paralysis loop. You need urgency. And used correctly, FUD can create urgency.

You are probably thinking about how distasteful this whole discussion seems. You can’t stand it when your sales reps try to throw a FUD balloon at you, and now you need to do the same thing? Just hear me out. The deal with using FUD in an end user context is pretty straightforward – it’s really just about telling the truth, the whole truth.

And that’s really the difference. The amount of risk most organizations face can be overwhelming, so most security managers downplay it, or run out of time to tell the entire story. What you want to do is explain to senior management, preferably with examples of how it happened to other folks (who look like your company & managers), all the ways you can be compromised. Yes, the list is long.

I recommend you do this within the context of a risk assessment and the associated triage plan to fix the most urgent issues. This process is outlined in Steps 2 and 3 of the Pragmatic CSO. You see, if you show them you can get killed 200 ways, but ask for funding to only fix 50, it’s a win win. The reality is even if you had the resources, you couldn’t fix all 200 anyway, and by the time you are done there will be another 200. But that can stay just between us. The senior folks think you are making tough choices to fix the stuff that’s most important and exposed – which you are.

So as you hunt for those wascally wabbits each day, don’t be too scared to break out the Elmer FUDd from time to time. Sometimes the end justifies the means. But don’t tell the vendors I said FUD is OK (sometimes). That needs to remain our little secret.

Photo credits: “Elmer Fudd” originally uploaded by Joe Shlabotnik

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Comments

FUD = Crack. That’s a great nuance. Use it too much and you get addicted, and we all know how that ends. With you left for dead in a gutter somewhere. Awesome. Thanks Mokum.

By Mike Rothman


FUD is a powerful medicine that should be enjoyed with caution, like any other ‘fun’ chemical. It certainly has its use but when used in large quantities or by inexperienced users. Long time ago I made the same statement in a tongue-in-cheek blog http://fudsec.com/fud-just-feels-right
Your article reminded me I really should map out ‘200 ways to get killed’ and see if I’ve mastered the FUD dosing to a T.

By mokum von Amsterdam


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