Design For Behavior, Not Awareness

October was National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. Since today is the last day, I figured now is as good a time as any to take a contrarian perspective on what undoubtedly many organizations just did over the past few weeks; namely, wasted a lot of time, money, and good will.

Anton Chuvakin and I were having a fun debate a couple weeks ago about whether incremental improvements are worthwhile in infosec, or if it's really necessary to "jump to the next curve" (phrase origin: Guy Kawasaki's "Art of Innovation," watch his TedX) in order to make meaningful gains in security practices. Anton even went so far as to write about it a little over a week ago (sorry for the delayed response - work travel). As promised, I feel it's important to counter his arguments a bit.

A Change In Context

Today marks the end of my first week in a new job. As of this past Monday, I am now a Manager, Security Engineering, with Pearson. I'll be handling a variety of responsibilities, initially mixed between security architecture and team management. I view this opportunity as a chance to reset my career after the myriad challenges experienced over the past decade. In particular, I will now finally be able to say I've had administrative responsibility for personnel, lack of which having held me back from career progression these past few years.

This change is a welcome one, and it will also be momentous in that it will see us leaving the NoVA/DC area next Summer. The destination is not finalized, but it seems likely to be Denver. While it's not the same as being in Montana, it's the Rockies and at elevation, which sounds good to me. Not to mention I know several people in the area and, in general, like it. Which is not to say that we dislike where we live today (despite the high price tag). It's just time for a change of scenery.

I plan to continue writing on the side here (and on LinkedIn), but the pace of writing may slow again in the short-term while I dedicate most of my energy to ramping up the day job. The good news, however, is this will afford me the opportunity to continue getting "real world" experience that can be translated and related in a hopefully meaningful manner.

Until next time, thanks and good luck!

I have a pet peeve. Ok, I have several, but nonetheless, we're going to talk about one of them today. That pet peeve is security professionals wasting time and energy pushing a "security culture" agenda. This practice of talking about "security culture" has arisen over the past few years. It's largely coming from security awareness circles, though it's not always the case (looking at you anti-phishing vendors intent on selling products without the means and methodology to make them truly useful!).

I see three main problems with references to "security culture," not the least of which being that it continues the bad old practices of days gone by.

I recently had the privilege of attending BJ Fogg's Behavior Design Boot Camp. For those unfamiliar with Fogg's work, he started out doing research on Persuasive Technology back in the 90s, which has become the basis for most modern uses of technology to influence people (for example, use of Facebook user data to influence the 2016 US Presidential Election). The focus of the boot camp was around "behavior design," which was suggested to me by a friend who's a leading expert in modern, progress security awareness program management.

Thinking about how best to apply this new-found knowledge, I've been mulling opportunities for application of Fogg models and methods. Suddenly, it occurred to me, "Hey, you know what we really need is a new sub-field that combines all aspects of security behavior design, such as security awareness, anti-phishing, social engineering, and even UEBA." I concluded that maybe this sub-field would be called something like "behavioral security" and started doing searches on the topic.

Confessions of an InfoSec Burnout

Soul-crushing failure.

If asked, that is how I would describe the last 10 years of my career, since leaving AOL.

I made one mistake, one bad decision, and it's completely and thoroughly derailed my entire career. Worse, it's unclear if there's any path to recovery as failure piles on failure piles on failure.

Folks: Please stop calling every soup-to-nuts, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink security job a "security architect" role. It's harmful to the industry and it's doing you no favors trying to find the right resources. In fact, please stop posting these "one role does everything security under the sun" positions altogether. It's hurting your recruitment efforts, and it makes it incredibly difficult to find positions that are a good fit. Let me explain...

For starters, there are generally three classes of security people, management and pentesters aside:
- Analysts
- Engineers
- Architects

(Note that these terms tend to be loaded due to their use in other industries. In fact, in some states you might even have to come up with a different equivalent term for positions due to legal definitions (or licensing) of roles. Try to bear with me and just go with the flow, eh?)

Reflection on Working From Home

In a moment of introspection last night, it occurred to me that working from home tends to amplify any perceived slight or sources of negativity. Most of my "human" interactions are online only, which - for this extrovert - means my energy is derived from whatever "interaction" I have online in Twitter, Facebook, email, Slack, etc.

Introspection on a Recent Downward Spiral

Alrighty... now that my RSA summary post is out of the way, let's get into a deeply personal post about how absolutely horrible of a week I had at RSA. Actually, that's not fair. The first half of the week was ok, but some truly horrible human beings targeted me (on social media) on Wednesday of that week, and it drove me straight down into a major depressive crash that left me reeling for days (well, frankly, through to today still).

I've written about my struggles with depression in the past, and so in the name of continued transparency and hope that my stories can help others, I wanted to relate this fairly recent tale.

If you can't understand or identify with this story, I'm sorry, but that's on you.

RSA USA 2017 In Review

Now that I've had a week to recover from the annual infosec circus event to end all circus events, I figured it's a good time to attempt being reflective and proffer my thoughts on the event, themes, what I saw, etc, etc, etc.

For starters, holy moly, 43,000+ people?!?!?!?!?! I mean... good grief... the event was about a quarter of that a decade ago. If you've never been to RSA, or if you only started attending in the last couple years, then it's really hard to describe to you how dramatic the change has been since ~2010 when the numbers started growing like this (to be fair, yoy growth from 2016 to 2017 wasn't all that huge).

With that... let's drill into my key highlights...

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