Incite 3/9/2011: Greed Is (fill in the blank)

As most of you know, I’m a huge NFL fan. In fact I made my kids watch the combine on NFL Network two weeks ago when the Boss was away. The frickin’ combine. I was on the edge of my seat watching some guy run a 4.34 40-yard dash. And heard the groans of the crowd when a top rated offensive tackle did only 21 bench presses of 225 pounds. That’s it? And some defensive lineman did 50 reps on the bench. 50 reps. If this DT thing doesn’t work out, I’m sure he’s got a future benching Pintos in the circus. Unless you have been hiding under a rock, you also know the NFL players’ union and owners are locked in a stand-off to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement. It’s hard to sympathize with either side – either the billionaires or the multi-millionaires. Though when you read this truly outstanding piece by Bill Simmons of ESPN, you get a different perspective, and it’s even hard to feel anything but disdain for the owners. Though I’m not going to shed any tears for the players either. But if you really want, you can feel sad for the biggest bust in NFL draft history, because he made $38 million and still had his house end up in foreclosure. I’m not sure about you, but Wall Street is still one of my all-time favorite movies. Though it’s debatable whether Bud Fox is #winning nowadays. When Gekko does his soliloquy at the annual meeting, anchored by the catchphrase “Greed is good,” I still get chills down my spine. Although I’m not sure I believe it any more. You see, I grew up in a pretty modest home. We weren’t poor, but we weren’t rich either. I had stuff, but not the best stuff. I did things, but my friends did more. So I’ve always chased the money, most likely out of some misguided childhood belief that I missed out on something. That pursuit has brought me nothing but angst. I’ve made poor career decisions. I’ve worked with assholes. And I didn’t get rich. Sure, I’m comfortable and I’m fortunate to be able to provide a nice lifestyle for my family, but I can’t buy a plane. At one point in my life, I’d have viewed myself as a failure because of that. So no more chasing the money. If I find it, all the better, but my career decisions are based on what I like to do, not how much I can make. As I’ve gotten older, I have also realized that what’s right for me may not be right for you. So if you still want to own a plane, more power to you. We need folks with that drive to build great companies and create lots of value and spur the economy. Just don’t ask me to play along. I’m not interested in running a competitor out of business. Nor am I interested in extracting every nickel and dime from our clients or screwing someone over to buy another yacht. And that’s also why I’m not the owner of an NFL team. So I guess my answer is “Greed is not interesting anymore.” -Mike Photo credits: “Greed” originally uploaded by Mike Smail Incite 4 U We suck at hiring: Many of you work at reasonably sized companies. You know, the kind of company with an HR department to tell you not to surf pr0n on your corporate laptop. Those helpful HR folks also lead the hiring process for your security folks, right? This post by Chief Monkey should hit you in the banana (or taco – we don’t want to discriminate). I usually like a rent to own approach. Offer promising folks a short term contract, and if they have the goods bring them aboard. Yes, I know that in a competitive job market (like security), some candidates may not like it. But your organization is probably more screwed up than anything they have seen before, so this provides some risk mitigation for the candidate as well. They could opt out before it gets much more difficult. – MR Just say no (Rich’s take): Believe it or not, sometimes saying no is the right thing to do. I realize we’re all new-age self-actualized security pros these days, but sometimes you need to hit the brakes before ramming into the back of that car parked in the center lane while some doofus tries to finish a text message. Wells Fargo is clamping down on any use of employee-owned devices, and simultaneously experimenting with corporate iPads to supplement corporate smartphones. In a business like financial services, it only makes sense to operate a more restrictive environment and require employees to use personal devices and personal networks for personal stuff. Not that I’m saying the rest of you need to be so restrictive – you are not one of the biggest financials in the world and you probably won’t be able to get away with being so draconian. Heck, thanks to iPhones/Android/Winmo7 your users can still access Facebook all they want while at work… without hitting your network. – RM Just say no (Adrian’s take): Well’s Fargo’s IT department is saying no to personal devices being connected to the corporate network. Part of me says “Good for them!” I don’t use the same machine to surf the web as I do for online banking, so SoD (Separation of Devices) seems like a good idea. Part of me thinks Wells Fargo makes so many bad decisions in general, what if this is wrong too? I started to wonder if we could see a time when the local area network is only partially secured, and the banks let employees use their own devices on the less secure area. What if critical applications and processes are heavily secured in the cloud, as they move away from the users who create a lot of the security problems? Would that be a better model for separating general usage from critical processes and machines? Food for thought. – AL Looking for work, Tier 1 spammer… So Soloway is out of the big house. I wonder if

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The CIO Role and Security

During the e10+ event Monday at the RSA Conference, Rich and Mike moderated a panel on Optimizing Your Security Program. One of the contested topics was how to position security to upper management. Every CIO and CISO falls into the trap of having to say ‘No’ to some new idea that occurs to executive management, and then take blame for being “Negative Nancy”, “Dr. No”, “The Knight who says NEE”, or some collection of the Seven Dirty Words. I was surprised that so little has changed, as these were exactly the same problems I had a dozen years ago. While security threats were far simpler and fewer then, so was acknowledgement of the need for security. I guess it’s human nature that we still fall into the same traps. For example, I remember the principal VC of one of the many start-ups I worked at, stating we needed to take credit cards – I responded that it was too risky given our (total lack of) site security. He looked at me as though I was stupid, insubordinate, and insensitive to customer requirements. I remain convinced it was one of the reasons I was one of the first people let go during a series of cost cutting RIFs. At the brokerage there was a bi-polar attitude, that 9 days out of 10 I needed to get the sales staff what they need to do their jobs, and make things as easy as possible so the sales conversations were aided rather than hindered by technology. Day ten was a hair-on-fire security exercise because some broker was printing out the entire database to bring to a competitor. On the tenth day you will be asked by the CEO, “What are you doing to protect my data?” The correct answer is not, “making it super easy for people to get access,” or “exactly what you told me to.” As a CIO your priroity is service, but you are responsible for security. I managed accordingly, or at least I started out that way. I figured I had the authority to nix projects that compromised data security. I felt it was my responsibility, as champion of security, to halt new projects until they addressed data and compliance issues. Outsiders felt security turned simple ideas into complex – and costly – projects. In reality, though most new ideas were not fleshed out, and failed to account for total build costs – much less the cost to clean up messes down the road. Still, complexity was “my fault”. This resulted in complaints, mid-level mangers trying to bypass me altogether, and bosses realigning my bonus incentives based on project completion and satisfaction of IT users. Running IT services for popularity is dangerous, and results in bizarre feature-based prioritization of improvements, with user satisfaction hinging almost purely on system stability. You add shiny toys of no consequence and you make sure things are reliable – no more. I only recommend this if you want to ‘earn’ some short term bonuses and promotions, then quickly move to your next employer. If you want to succeed in the job for more than a couple consecutive quarters, avoid being a feature firewall, and avoid having your merit judged on convenience and system uptime. Features and new ideas are more likely to come from outside your organization than inside, and no one else wants security, so you have to field these challenges. Trying to spin security as a business enabler is great conceptually but rarely works in the real world. I used three approaches to avoid being the bad guy for advocating security: The Security Porcupine: When I started working with sales people, I learned many sales techniques. One of the best tactics I ever learned was the ‘Porcupine’ strategy from Tom Hopkins, which I bastardized a bit to help with IT projects. In essence, you don’t catch a porcupine when it’s thrown at you – instead you deflect it. Ask the originator how they feel the problem should be addressed. “What a great idea! How would you like to handle [security/compliance/auditng] requirements we must meet?” This is a choice-based strategy. It gives the person who had the idea some responsibility by recognizing their idea carries a security burden; they can then help scale back their idea, or accept security controls as part of the plan. Either way, security becomes a facet of their project. The Hidden Security Project: If it’s your responsibility to form the IT deployment plan, take responsibility for it and build security in. Weave security into the project plan, subtly or otherwise, such that it is difficult to discern core function from security or operations. Costs and functions are bundled, and a detailed presentation makes it look like you have invested time into understanding how to get the project done. Present the plan and let the executive team decide if the investment is worth it. If it passes, you have both budget and executive buy-in. If not, the work you put into the plan saved you from disaster down the road. The Gauntlet: Accept the proposal and enter a “requirements phase”. As the project undergoes scruitiny from your team, raise security as an outstanding question. Also make sure internal compliance, security, and external auditors review the plan. It’s likely someone else will have the same security concerns you do – in addition to compliance and procedural issues you never thought of. If the idea is truly worthy, it will pass these tests. Either way, don’t fight it head-on. Most ideas die in the process, and nobody gets egg on their face when the initial state of euphoria passes over to critical reasoning. It’s a transparent pass-the-buck ruse in smaller organizations, but can harden and flesh out good ideas in larger firms. I hate to advocate shenanigans, but business is business, and people will turn you into road pizza if you don’t protect yourself. Share:

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