Friday Summary: September 2, 2011

I was reading Martin McKeay’s post Fighting a Bad Habit. Martin makes a dozen or so points in the post – and shares some career angst – but there is a key theme that really resonates with me. Most technology lifers I know have their own sense of self worth tied up in what they are able to contribute professionally. Without the feeling of building, contributing, or making things better, the job is not satisfying. In college a close friend taught me what his father taught him. Any successful career should include three facets: You should do research to stay ahead in your field. You should practice your craft to keep current. You should teach those around you what you know. I find these things make me happy and make me feel productive. I have been fortunate that over my career there has been balance in these three areas. The struggle is that the balance is seldom entirely within a single job. Usually any job role is dominated by one of the three, then I choose another role or job that allows me to move on to the next leg of the stool. I do know I am happiest when I get to do all three, but windows of time when they are in balance are vanishingly small. Another point of interest for me in Martin’s post was the recurring theme that – as security experts – we need to get outside the ‘security echo chamber’. The 6,000 or so dedicated security practitioners around the world who know their stuff and struggle in futility, trying to raise the awareness of those around them to security issues. And the 600 or so experts among them are seldom interested in the mundane – only the cutting edge, which keeps them even further from the realm of the average IT practitioner. It has become clear to me over the last year is this is a self-generated problem, and a byproduct of being in an industry few have noticed until recently. We are simply tired of having the same conversations. For example, I have been talking about information centric security since 1997. I have been actively writing about database security for a decade. On those subjects it feels as if every sentence I write, I have written before. Every thought is a variation on a long-running theme. Frankly, it’s tiring. It’s even worse when I watch Rich as he struggles with waning passion for DLP. I won’t mince words – I’ll come out and say it: Rich knows more about DLP than anyone I have ever met. Even the CTOs of the vendor companies – while they have a little more technical depth on their particular products – lack Rich’s understanding of all the available products, deployment models, market conditions, buying centers, and business problems DLP can realistically solve. And we have a heck of a time getting him to talk about it because he has been talking about it for 8 years, over and over again. The problem is that what is old hat for us is just becoming mainstream. DAM, DLP, and other security. So when Martin or Rich or I complain about having the same conversations over and over, well, tough. Suck it up. There are a lot of people out there who are not part of the security echo chamber, who want to learn and understand. It’s not sexy and it ain’t getting you a speaking slot at DefCon, but it’s beneficial to a much larger IT audience. I guess this is that third facet of a successful career. Teach. It’s the education leg of our jobs and it needs to be done. With this blog – and Martin’s – we have the ability to teach others what we know, to a depth not possible with Twitter and Facebook. Learning you have an impact on a larger audience is – and should be – a reward in and off itself. On to the Summary: Favorite Securosis Posts Adrian Lane: Detecting and Preventing Data Migrations to the Cloud. Mike Rothman: Fact-Based Network Security: Compliance Benefits. Theory is good. Applying theory to practice is better. That’s why I like this series. Application of many of the metrics concepts we’ve been talking about for years. Check out all the posts. Rich: Since our posting is a bit low this week, I dug into the archives for The Data Breach Triangle. Mostly since Ed Bellis cursed me out for it earlier this week and I never learned why. Other Securosis Posts Security Management 2.0: Platform Evaluation, Part 1. Incite 8/31/2011: The Glamorous Life. Detecting and Preventing Data Migrations to the Cloud. Fact-Based Network Security: Operationalizing the Facts. The Mobile App Sec Triathlon. Friday Summary (Not Too Morbid Edition): August 26, 2011. Favorite Outside Posts Mike Rothman: Preparing to Fire an Executive. Ultra-VC Ben Horowitz provides a guide to getting rid of a bad fit. These principles apply whether you’ve got to take out the CEO or a security admin. If you manage people, read this post. Now. Adrian and Gunnar: Those Who Can’t Do, Audit. Mary Ann calls out SASO – er, OK, she called out Veracode. And Chris Wysopal fired back with Musings on Custer’s Last Stand. Not taking a side here as both are about 80% right in what they are saying, but this back and forth is a fascinating read. On a different note, check out MAD’s book recommendations – they rock! Rich: Veracode defends themselves from an Oracle war of words. I’m with Chris on this one… Oracle has yet to build the track record to support this sort of statements. Other companies have. Project Quant Posts DB Quant: Index. NSO Quant: Index of Posts. NSO Quant: Health Metrics–Device Health. NSO Quant: Manage Metrics–Monitor Issues/Tune IDS/IPS. Research Reports and Presentations Tokenization vs. Encryption: Options for Compliance. Security Benchmarking: Going Beyond Metrics. Understanding and Selecting a File Activity Monitoring Solution. Database Activity Monitoring: Software vs. Appliance. Top News and Posts Mac

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Making Bets

Being knee deep in a bunch of research projects doesn’t give me enough time to comment on the variety of interesting posts I see each week. Of course we try to highlight them both in the Incite (with some commentary) and in the Friday Summary. But some posts deserve a better, more detailed treatment. We haven’t done an analysis, but I’d guess we find a pretty high percentage of what Richard Bejtlich writes interesting. Here’s a little hint: it’s because he’s a big brained dude. Early this week he posted a Security Effectiveness Model to document some of his ideas on threat-centric vs. vulnerability-centric security. I’d post the chart here but without Richard’s explanations it wouldn’t make much sense. So check out the post. I’ll wait. When I took a step back, Richard’s labels didn’t mean much to me. But there is an important realization in that Venn diagram. Richard presents a taxonomy to understand the impact of the bets we make every day. No, I’m not talking about heading off to Vegas on a bender that leaves you… well, I digress. But the reality is that security people make bets every day. Lots of them. We bet on what’s interesting to the attackers. We bet on what defenses will protect those interesting assets. We bet on how stupid our employees are (they remain the weakest link). We also bet on how little we can do to make the auditors go away, since they don’t understand what we are trying to do anyway. And you thought security was fundamentally different than trading on Wall Street? Here’s the deal. A lot of those bets are wrong, and Richard’s chart shows why. With limited resources we have to make difficult choices. So we start by guessing what will be interesting to attackers (Richard’s Defensive Plan). Then we try to protect those things (Live Defenses). Ultimately we won’t know everything that’s interesting to attackers (Threat Actions). We do know we can’t protect everything, so some of the stuff we think is important will go unprotected. Oh well. Even better, we won’t be right on what we assume the attackers want, nor on what defenses will work. Not entirely. So some of the stuff we think is important isn’t. So of our defenses protect things that aren’t important. As in advertising, a portion of our security spend is wasted – we just don’t know which portion. Oh well. We’ll also miss some of the things the attacker thinks are important. That makes it pretty easy for them, eh? Oh, well. And what about when we are right? When we think something will be a target, and the attackers actually want it? And we have it defended? Well, we can still lose – a persistent attacker will still get its way, regardless of what we do. Isn’t this fun? But the reason I so closely agree with most of what Richard writes is pretty simple. We realize the ultimate end result, which he summed up pretty crisply on Twitter (there are some benefits to a 140 character limit): “Managing risk,” “keeping the bad guys out,” “preventing compromise,” are all failed concepts. How fast can you detect and correct failures? and The success of a security program then ultimately rests w/ the ability to detect & respond to failures as quickly & efficiently as possible. React Faster and Better anyone? Share:

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