Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Rules: 10 Things Every Entry-level Security Person Needs to Know & Every Pro Forgets

There are principles which are inherently the same no matter what discipline of security you practice. Although, for some reason, some of us tend to forget them to our detriment. I blame 99.9% of all practitioner -caused security failures on this. What's worse is that rookies aren't the only one's who miss them. A lot of these issues come from pros who should know better. Like everything else, we need a refresher.

  1. Our business is about risk. This profession isn't just about assigning widgets to fix people's security issues. We deal with asking and solving really tough questions the end-user is often scared to address or doesn't know exist. If you're just selling a product to meet a quota or performing a security function to satisfy a job description, you're wrong. Start by asking the client about the resources he's protecting and what he's willing to do to protect it. Next, ask him if it's worth protecting. Most people believe EVERYTHING needs security. Precious time and resources are sometimes wasted defending something no one cares about to include the bad guys.
  2. Security is a state of mind; not an objective. Do you know how many of us believe the mythology that tells us we can attain security as if it were quantitative? Of course you do. An entire industry is built around this ridiculous premise. Nothing is 100% secure - ever! It can't be. There's always a vulnerability. I'm not saying not to bother with security. I'm just asking you to consider what it is you're trying to do and to consider if you and the client have realistic goals.
  3. Know your tools. I'm surprised by the number of practitioners who know so little about the tools that are available to protect their assets. People have this problematic tendency to learn from vendors about the tools offered but fail to educate themselves. Venture to some trade shows. Join ASIS. Ask around the Internet. Become a sponge. Too many of us are bricks. There aren't enough of us taking in knowledge in order to give knowledge back.
  4. Know your limitations. Face it, there are some problems you can't fix. Seriously. If you can't do the job, be honest. Say you can't and find someone else who can. You'll keep your integrity and impress the client more by being honest. You'll also develop a good rapport with trusted colleagues you refer. Trust me this is a good thing. After the referral, tag along. Be that sponge I mentioned previously.
  5. Define your goals. When I was a supervisor in the Air Force, I can't tell you how many of my troops' professional failings came from forgeting this simple step. Look, no one likes writing goals except for those insanely productive people who live inside Lifehacker.  But what's the harm in sitting down and mapping out your weaknesses, what you can to do to fix them, and assigning a goal to reach them? Absolutely nothing. So get started.

    This can and should also be applied to security projects. Define what the project is, what the client's expectations are, determine how you can meet them, and then set goals in order to meet each objective. It's simple but few people do it. Failing to do it guarantees you'll lose an opportunity to work on future projects. 
  6. Know your terrain. Do you really understand the security environment? I'm not just talking about the threat. So often, we ignore the internal and external impacts of our measures which undermine our ability to properly protect these assets. For example, in many businesses, there is a key exchange. If you need access to a secure area, you have to leave a badge to receive a key into the area. This seems like a perfectly harmless idea, until users grow tired of giving up their badges and the person conducting the exchange is increasingly wary of having to do it. Security lapses occur as the "inconvenience" outweighs the security concerns. Don't believe me? Three words - Transportation Security Administration. Learn the terrain and figure out what will work the smoothest.
  7. Education begins with exposure. My take on security education is simple - you don't know what you need to know because you're not out there asking the right people. I know some people may be scratching their heads at that. But it's the truth. So many of us are ignorant of the threat, the tools, and the terrain because we haven't taken the steps to "get smart" about them.
  8. Befriend your enemy. I'm not telling you to "friend request" al-Shabab on Facebook or chat with MS-13 members on Twitter. What I'm suggesting is that you not only read up on their operations but try to get some basic understanding of their collective psychology. Learn how they conduct target selection, who they work with, how they recruit, their tools, etc. This will not only give you an idea as to how to build a better security plan but it will also enable you to ensure it's both comprehensive and adaptive.
  9. Everyone has a sales pitch. My first venture into private security was interesting, to say the least. I learned a lot from that gig. One of the lessons that stood out the most was to always be on the lookout for the sale pitch. Learning your client's pitch will enable you to ensure how you protect his resources won't effect his "bottom-line". Would be it a good idea to have dome cameras installed over tables at restaurants? Of course not. What most restaurants sell, in addition to food, is a friendly environment where you can dine among friends. A dome camera over your table robs you of that, thus killing the restaurant's sale pitch. I've never seen that happen but it does illustrate how quickly we can lose the client's respect and business by forgetting they have a business to run as well. 
  10. Vigilance is demanded. When I wrote the first draft of this article, I originally wrote "vigilance is expected." That was a HUGE mistake. Why? Because "expected" means you accept a margin of failure. In this business, apathy is where all good security measures go to die. I recognize the fine line between hyper-vigilance and vigilance. Certainly, there needs to be a balance. Just remember, at the end of the day, when there is a breach, you'll be forced to address why you violated this most sacred of security "rules". If you're a supervisor, your vision of how your people practice their profession should have this rule at the forefront. Julius Ceasar had a special patrol he conducted before battle to catch wayward soldiers sleep on their post. The maximum and usual penalty? Death. While the consequences aren't quite as dire as this in the real world at times, complacency will destroy our ability to adequately protect the client and their resources. This is a compromise we can't afford to allow - EVER.

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