A Step Inside the Guerilla CISO’s Mind

Posted July 31st, 2008 by

I toyed for several years about making an infosec hall of shame.  Like seriously, I already had some candidates, you know who most of them are, it’s the same as the Washington Post Front-Page Metric.

Hall of Fame, Hall of Shame

Hall of Fame, Hall of Shame photo by leafar.

And my friends and I had some other nummy tidbits from our travels out and about, doing this stuff in the place where theory meets the realities of implementation.

Now if you look around on The Guerilla CISO, you’ll find that I don’t have a Hall of Shame.  I eventually decided not to have one after much deliberation, and the reason is this:  If you have key decision-makers that are removed or abstracted from the impacts of the decisions that they make, it is not fair to publicly humiliate the people who have to live with the implementation of the decisions.

And for better or worse, that’s the way the Government’s security model (and many other things) works.

Similar Posts:

Posted in The Guerilla CISO | 3 Comments »

Legacy Systems: Where the Catalog Falls Apart and LOLCATS Roam

Posted July 31st, 2008 by

Let’s face it, compliance in IT security is a myth.  Compliance in IT security with legacy systems is like a chupacabbra riding a white unicorn chasing a leprechaun while waving Excalibur.  And the auditors just shake their head and wonder why you can’t just comply.

Anyway, on to the LOLCATZ (note that I’m getting all creative-stylie with haikus this week, must be something in the beer last night):


funny pictures

Similar Posts:

Posted in IKANHAZFIZMA | 2 Comments »

No, FISMA Doesn’t Require That, Silly Product Pushers

Posted July 31st, 2008 by

Post #9678291 on why people don’t understand what FISMA really isSecure64 DNSSEC Press Releases.

“FISMA Act encourages U.S. government agencies to configure their DNS servers to the DNSSEC security specifications set by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and it has been reported that the federal governments Office of Management and Budget (OMB) plans to begin enforcing DNSSEC requirements through an auditing process, setting the standard for DNS best practices.”

Yep, if you stamp FISMA on it, people will buy it, maybe in your PR department’s wettest and wildest dreams.  Guys, it’s been 6 years, that kind of marketing doesn’t work nowadays, mostly because we spent ourselves into oblivion buying junkware similar to yours and now we’re all jaded.

Now don’t get me wrong, DNSSEC is a good thing, especially this month.  But there is something I need to address:  FISMA requires good security management with a dozen or so key indicators, not a solution down to the technical level.  Allusions to OMB are just FUD, FUD, and more FUD because unless it’s in a memo to agency heads, it’s all posturing–something everybody in this town knows how to do very well.  OMB would rather stay out of mandating DNSSEC and maybe give a “due date” once NIST has a final standard.

My one word of wisdom for today:  anybody who tries to sell a product and uses FISMA as the “compelling event” has no clue what they’re talking about.

Similar Posts:

Posted in FISMA, What Doesn't Work | 7 Comments »

C&A Seminar in August, Instructor-to-Coolness Ratio Goes Up!

Posted July 28th, 2008 by

Potomac Forum is having a 2-day C&A seminar on August 6th and 7th.  It will be unusually good this time because I won’t be there to drag everybody down–I’ll be on the road for some training.  =)  Anyway, check it out and say hi to my instructors from me.

Similar Posts:

Posted in FISMA, Speaking | 1 Comment »

LOLCATS Take on Catalog of Controls

Posted July 24th, 2008 by

Guys, please remember that the controls from SP 800-53 and the test cases from SP 800-53A need to be tailored.  Otherwise, they’re as useful as a watermelon in a lake is to a kitteh.

funny pictures

Similar Posts:

Posted in IKANHAZFIZMA | 1 Comment »

On Government Employees, Culture, and Survivability

Posted July 21st, 2008 by

A couple of months before I was activated and went to Afghanistan, I got a briefing from a Special Forces NCO who had done multiple tours in the desert.  One thing he said still sticks in my mind (obviously paraphrased):

“The Afghanis, they live in mud huts, they don’t have electricity, they are stick-people weighing 85 lbs, and to say that we could bomb them into the stone age would be an advancement in their technology level.  But never underestimate these people, they’re survivors.  They’ve survived 35 years of warfare, starting with the Soviets, then they fought a civil war before we arrived on the scene.  Never underestimate their ability to survive, and have respect for them because of who they are.”

Today, I feel the same way about government employees, even more so because it’s an election year:  they’re survivors.

Now time for what I see is the “real” reason why the government is doing badly (if that’s what you believe–opinions differ) at security: it’s all an issue of culture. I have a friend who converted a year ago to a GS-scale employee and took a class on what motivates government employees. Some of these are obvious:

  • Pride at making a difference
  • Helping people
  • Supporting a cause
  • Gaining unique experience on a global-class scope
  • Job stability
  • Retirement benefits

And one thing is noticeably absent: better pay and personal recognition.  Hey, sounds like me in the army.

The Companion Family Plan to Survival at Home

The Companion Family Plan for Survival at Home photo by Uh … Bob.

Now I’m not trying to stereotype, but you need to know the organizational behavior pieces to understand how government security works. And in this case, the typical government employee is about as survival-aware as their Afghani counterpart.

Best advice I ever heard from a public policy wonk: the key to survival in this town is to influence everything you can get your hands on and never have your name actually written on anything.

In other words, don’t criticize, be nice to everybody even though you think they are a jerk, and avoid saying anything at all because you never know when it will be contrary to the political scene.  The Government culture is a silent culture. That’s why every day amazing things happen to promote security in the Government and you’ll never hear about it on the outside.

One of the reasons that I started blogging was to counter the naysayers who say that FISMA is failing and that the Government would succeed if they would just buy their product for technical policy compliance or end-to-end encryption.  Sadly, the true heroes in Government, the people who just do their job every day and try to survive a hostile political environment, are giving credit to the critics because of their silence.

Which brings me to my point:

Yes, my name is Rybolov and I’m a heretic, but this is the secret to security in the Government:  it’s cultural at all layers of the personnel stack.  Security (and innovation, now that I think about it) needs a culture of openness where it’s allowable to make mistakes and/or criticize.  Doesn’t sound like any government–local, state, or federal–that I’ve ever seen.  However, if you fix the culture, you fix the security.

Similar Posts:

Posted in FISMA, Rants, What Doesn't Work, What Works | 3 Comments »

« Previous Entries

Visitor Geolocationing Widget: