Guerilla CISO Tip for Auditors: Be an “Observer-Controller”

Posted April 24th, 2008 by

The US Army occassionally does things right.

Well, one of the things that they do right is training. Our training process for squad and above is mostly focused around the Observer-Controller (OC) and their value proposition (my MBA word for the day, TYVM). Whenever you are training, there is an OC tagging right along with you to assess what and why you are doing something and then make recommendations at the end.

OCs Having a BBQ 

Observer-Controllers hard at work, photo by David Axe

What an OC brings with them (aside from their 31337 BBQ Ski11z):

  • Experience of having seen the same task done hundreds of times with various groups.
  • A strong understanding of the doctrinally-correct way to do a task.
  • Techniques to fill out where doctrine is not specific enough.
  • Sometimes they have pre-written standard operating procedures that they will share with you.

What an OC will never do:

  • Use you resources to support themselves.
  • Own the solution space for you.
  • Criticize you in front of your troops.
  • Interfere with your ability to do your mission.

Hmmm, sounds like the things that a good auditor does.

Auditors are in a fantastic position to help the auditee because of the wide range of experience in how other companies have been doing the exact same thing that you are doing.  Point is, there is a level of collusion that needs to happen between the auditor and the auditee, and the extent of that collusion is really what we’re talking about when we start looking at Separation of Duties and similar things.

Over the years, auditors and auditees have had the nature of their relationship change numerous times. Around the time of Sarbanes-Oxley, the pendulum swung wildly the way of “no relationship no how” and now it’s slowly moving back to somewhere normal. Here’s a podcast with Michael Oxley talking about how auditors need to collude better with the auditee.  Disclaimer:  this is part of a series that is produced by my firm, but I had no part in this, Mkay?

Here in DC, we have a saying (Ok, I made it up my own self):  “Collusion is not just a technique, it’s THE technique.”  =)

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Posted in Army, What Works | 1 Comment »

One Response

  1.  Vlad the Impaler Says:

    Only problem with having the auditors help you solve a problem… At some point after they try to be helpful, they lose their “independence.”

    It’s similar to my favoirte light bulb joke about security testers…

    “…we don’t actually fix these things. We just noticed that the room is dark.”

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