A CISO needs to be a business person? No kidding…

It amazes to me that articles like CISOs Must Engage the Board About Information Security and The Demise of the Player/Manager CISO even need to be written. If you sit in the CISO chair and this wasn’t already obvious to you, you need to find another job. Back when I launched the Pragmatic CSO in 2007 I wrote a few tips to help CSOs get their heads on straight. Here is the first one: Tip #1: You are a business person, not a security person When I first meet a CSO, one of the first things I ask is whether they consider themselves a “security professional” or a “finance/healthcare/whatever other vertical” professional. 8 out of 10 times they respond “security professional” without even thinking. I will say that it’s closer to 10 out of 10 with folks that work in larger enterprises. These folks are so specialized they figure a firewall is a firewall is a firewall and they could do it for any company. They are wrong. One of the things preached in the Pragmatic CSO is that security is not about firewalls or any technology for that matter. It’s about protecting the systems (and therefore the information assets) of the business and you can bet there is a difference between how you protect corporate assets in finance and consumer products. In fact there are lots of differences between doing security in most major industries. There are different businesses, they have different problems, they tolerate different levels of pain, and they require different funding models. So Tip #1 is pretty simple to say, very hard to do – especially if you rose up through the technical ranks. Security is not one size fits all and is not generic between different industries. Pragmatic CSO’s view themselves as business people first, security people second. To put it another way, a healthcare CSO said it best to me. When I asked him the question, his response was “I’m a healthcare IT professional that happens to do security.” That was exactly right. He spent years understanding the nuances of protecting private information and how HIPAA applies to what he does. He understood how the claims information between providers and payees is sent electronically. He got the BUSINESS and then was able to build a security strategy to protect the systems that are important to the business. I was in a meeting of CISOs earlier this year, and one topic that came up (inevitably) was managing the board. I told those folks that if they don’t have frequent contact, and a set of allies on the Audit Committee, they are cooked. It’s as simple as that. The full board doesn’t care too much about security, but the audit committee needs to. So build those relationships and make sure you can pick up the phone and tell them what they need to know. Or dust off your resume. You will be needing it in the short term. Share:

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Oracle adopts Trustworthy Computing practices for Java

Okay, I had to troll a bit with that title. From a piece in SC Magazine: Oracle formally has announced improvements in Java that are expected to harden a software line with a checkered security past. Oracle’s post has the details. Java has been part of Oracle’s Software Assurance processes since it was acquired, but they aren’t as robust as Microsoft’s Trustworthy Computing principles. Not that Oracle is following Microsoft (DO NOT TAUNT HAPPY FUN ORACLE) but there are two specific principles they are moving toward: Secure by design. Instead of code testing and bug fixing, they announced they are moving into stronger sandboxing and fundamental security. Secure by default. Altering existing settings in the product for a more secure initial state. If they keep on this path and build a stronger sandbox, Java in the browser might make a return just in time for HTML5 to kill it. But hey, at least then it won’t be because of security. Share:

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New Google disclosure policy is quite good

Google has stated they will now disclose vulnerability details in 7 days under certain circumstances: Based on our experience, however, we believe that more urgent action – within 7 days – is appropriate for critical vulnerabilities under active exploitation. The reason for this special designation is that each day an actively exploited vulnerability remains undisclosed to the public and unpatched, more computers will be compromised. Gunter Ollm, among others, doesn’t like this: The presence of 0-day vulnerability exploitation is often a real and considerable threat to the Internet – particularly when very popular consumer-level software is the target. I think the stance of Chris Evans and Drew Hintz over at Google on a 60-day turnaround of vulnerability fixes from discovery, and a 7-day turnaround of fixes for actively exploited unpatched vulnerabilities, is rather naive and devoid of commercial reality. As part of responsible disclosure I have always thought disclosing actively exploited vulnerabilities immediately is warranted. There are exceptions but users need to know they are at risk. The downside is that if the attack is limited in nature, revealing vulnerability details exposes a wider user base. Its a no-win situation, but I almost always err toward giving people the ability to defend themselves. Keep in mind that this is only for active, critical exploitation – not unexploited new vulnerabilities. Disclosing those without time to fix only hurts users. Share:

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