Society of Information Risk Analysts

Something To Build On

2011-01-14 01:32 | Marcin Antkiewicz

This blog entry was originally written by Jay Jacobs (@jayjacobs), I am just migrating the post to the new SIRA site. 

I am hoping that we, the participants, onlookers and critics of SIRA, will do something.

I’m not expecting anything spectacular, flashy or impressive but I would like something – because something is missing. The problem is, I can’t identify what exactly that something should be because I can’t fathom it yet. I look around at how information risk management is being done now and I see people struggling — not just struggling to implement good security, but also struggling to prioritize or worse, not recognizing when to stop.

There is a tipping point in information security when we will tip from not spending enough resources to spending too much. From what I can see, we have no idea when that occurs and we may be flip-flopping between the two already. Because the problem is, we struggle to define what effective security looks like. Take a handful of security experts, and ask them individually about the efficacy of say, anti-virus, network segmentation or passwords and listen to the words. Just soak in the variety of opinions and then ask each one a critical follow up question: “and how do you know?” The point isn’t who’s right or wrong, but just to acknowledge the variety of what constitutes efficacious security (yeah, that phrase just happened). Now multiply that variety by the number of people in an infosec role and we will see some really interesting emerging trends.

If we lived in a world lacking an evidence-based approach, we’d get a bunch of frameworks from really impressive-sounding groups saying they’ve got the answer. We’d see a flood of similar-but-unique “best” practices and standards that claim to work everywhere. To top it off, we would be overwhelmed with failures (and successes) in all shapes and sizes and we’d struggle to recognize their significance. Meaning, if we lived in a world lacking an evidence based approach, we would be slave to the loudest voice, the scariest story, or the catchiest magazine article because those shape our perception and information security is currently based entirely on conventional wisdom.

Now, I’m not looking for SIRA to solve the problem of efficacious security (that was the last time, promise). Don’t get me wrong, I’d take it, but I’ve seen too many attempts leaps to the end-goal end up dying on a forgotten network share. That is not what I’m hoping for. What I am hoping for is to simply move things forward, even a little. Perhaps we can improve communication techniques, apply some relevant statistics method in a new way or figure out some way to inch this profession forward.

In short, I want us to create something to build on.

To that end, SIRA will be trying to create spaces for building: monthly conference calls, a mailing list for discussions, an open blog where thoughts can be formalized and a journal where ideas can be researched and communicated. And oh yeah, we’re doing a podcast because Alex Hutton says some funny stuff. All I’d ask of folks is to show up and to not be afraid to speak up, ask questions and even look silly from time to time (and show respect for those looking silly). The important thing here is to have those conversations and do something, even if that something turns out to be finding all the ways not to proceed… because we can build on that.

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