Skip to main content

Security is a mindset not a technology

I often get asked what I look for when hiring security professionals and my answer is usually that I want the right attitude first and foremost - knowledge is easy to gain and those that just collect pieces of paper should maybe think about gaining experience rather than yet more acronyms. However, it's difficult to get someone to change their mindset, so the right attitude is very important. But what is the right attitude?

Firstly, security professionals differ from developers and IT engineers in their outlook and approach, so shouldn't be lumped in with them, in my opinion. The mindset of a security professional is constantly thinking about what could go wrong (something that tends to spill over into my personal life as well, much to the annoyance of my wife). Contrast this with the mindset of a developer who is being measured on their delivery of new features. Most developers, or IT engineers, are looking at whether what they have delivered satisfies the requirements from the 'customer', the positive case, i.e. does it perform the function we intended? Security professionals look for the negative case, i.e. can I do anything other than the function intended? Of course, as a security professional, if you don't understand the intended function then you cannot set appropriate security controls or assess the potential impact if things go wrong, but your mind will immediately go to the 'what if' scenario. Therefore, expecting an IT engineer to deliver effective security is unrealistic.

Secondly, security professionals have to be curious (and I don't mean odd), continuously learning and embracing change. The threat landscape is constantly changing and technology doesn't stand still, so it isn't possible, as a security professional, to know everything. What you have to be able to do is go back to first principles and work out what you should be worrying about, not just churning out the same solutions and technologies you always have in the past. Anyone who turns up for an interview with me pretending to know everything, or puts little effort into understanding the scenario, is going to get dismissed pretty quickly. Equally, I'm not interested in someone who knows one single technology inside-out and shows no interest in learning something new - their knowledge will be obsolete very soon and then they're of no use.

Finally, a key identifier of a good security professional is whether they're interested in learning the business - if they're not, then they'll never understand the impact of what can go wrong and they'll probably default to deploying tried and tested technologies rather than embracing change and setting appropriate controls. Security professionals have to spend time understanding the business in order to gauge the impact and assess risk correctly so that work can be prioritised and the risk appetite of the business met.


Popular Posts

Coventry Building Society Grid Card

Coventry Building Society have recently introduced the Grid Card as a simple form of 2-factor authentication. It replaces memorable words in the login process. Now the idea is that you require something you know (i.e. your password) and something you have (i.e. the Grid Card) to log in - 2 things = 2 factors. For more about authentication see this post . How does it work? Very simply is the answer. During the log in process, you will be asked to enter the digits at 3 co-ordinates. For example: c3, d2 and j5 would mean that you enter 5, 6 and 3 (this is the example Coventry give). Is this better than a secret word? Yes, is the short answer. How many people will choose a memorable word that someone close to them could guess? Remember, that this isn't a password as such, it is expected to be a word and a word that means something to the user. The problem is that users cannot remember lots of passwords, so remembering two would be difficult. Also, having two passwords isn't real

How Reliable is RAID?

We all know that when we want a highly available and reliable server we install a RAID solution, but how reliable actually is that? Well, obviously, you can work it out quite simply as we will see below, but before you do, you have to know what sort of RAID are you talking about, as some can be less reliable than a single disk. The most common types are RAID 0, 1 and 5. We will look at the reliability of each using real disks for the calculations, but before we do, let's recap on what the most common RAID types are. Common Types of RAID RAID 0 is the Stripe set, which consists of 2 or more disks with data written in equal sized blocks to each of the disks. This is a fast way of reading and writing data to disk, but it gives you no redundancy at all. In fact, RAID 0 is actually less reliable than a single disk, as all the disks are in series from a reliability point of view. If you lose one disk in the array, you've lost the whole thing. RAID 0 is used purely to speed up dis

Proposed Pseudo-Code for Hacking Process

It is quite common in Information Systems to use pseudo code to describe a process. I have often thought that the same principle can be applied to the process of hacking an organisation, which may help people understand the process and how to protect themselves. Below is my proposal for this pseduo-code for the hacking process. This is very much a work in progress. I would welcome feedback on it and I will update it as suggestions are made or as I feel it needs revising. organisation = proposed target organisation. footprint (value, effort, risk) profit = value - (effort * risk) if profit > 0 then   organisation. enumerate ()    select attack_type      case DoS        engage_botnet (myBotnet)       myBotnet. launchDDoS (organisation)      case Access       organisation. gainAccess (myAccount)       myAccount. Elevate ()       organisation. installBackdoor (myAccount)       organisation. cleanUP ()    end select else   exit end if This highlights the fact tha