Are parents better security managers?

It has been a while since I have been posting here but my family and my job kept me quite busy. Especially my role as information security officer in my company with a successful ISO 27001 certification took its effort over the last couple of months.

Anyway new ideas regarding security and privacy are popping up in my head all the time and I am glad to find this moment to write one of them down and spread it.

This post is about a topic that I have been thinking for quite a while now. Being father of a 2 year old son I see quite some similarities between parentship and security management and I even think that being a parent made me also a better information security manager because I stay calmer in difficult situations like incidents.

As parents you have a lot more situations to deal with that need urgent response to some kind of incident like overfull diapers or your kid running towards the busy street etc. and you learn to and will stay calmer. You also sharpen your sense for what could go wrong – I call it my daily risk analysis. I regularly have to judge what my kid(s) can do like climb somewhere or play themselves outside and what I want to (try) to avoid them to do like run on the street by telling them not to do it and/or locking the fence.

Like in the role of an information security manager as a parent you will not be able to mitigate all risk because kid(s) should not be overprotected and parents do not have the time and energy to control everything. Also there are other stakeholders you have to consider like your partner or your employer that might have different thoughts on how much protection or time your kids need.

This is very similar in a business environment. You will usually not be able to mitigate all information security risks because cost and effort will be too high and too much restriction might have a negative impact on your business. Also time and ressources for information security are limited so that controls have to be prioritized according to the risk level.

But finally there is one huge different: when raising kids parents have to deal with a lot more safety issues than an average information security manager. And what is one of the most important thing you learn in your information security education? Safety (protection of human lives) is always more important than security 😉

Voices from it-sa

I was at the biggest German Security Expo and Congress it-sa last week. One of the highlights was definitely the speech of Edward Snowden (German report) in particular because the European Court of Justice declared Safe Harbor invalid two days earlier. I had a presentation about the OWASP Top 10 Privacy Risks and gave a radio interview for Deutschlandfunk about the importance of a holistic approach for information security. Furthermore heise TechConsult published an interesting study with 5 Steps for IT Security (in German) and recommends companies to spend 1% of their turnover for information security.

Cybercrime affects Germany most

According to the study Net Losses – Estimating the Global Cost of Cybercrime published by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Germany loses 1.6 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) because of cybercrime. This is more than in all other countries. Second are the Netherlands with 1.5 percent followed by Norway and USA with 0.64 percent each. One reason for Germany’s high loss numbers could be the recent efforts to collect and publish cybercrime incidents, but of course also a lack of security measures in German companies.

Environmental Risk #1: Air Pollution

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently published a report with new numbers of dead people because of air pollution each year: 7 million worldwide – most of them because of stroke and heart and lung diseases.

This is more than twice as high as previously estimated and thus air pollution is the biggest environmental health risk now. And even in Europe 600,000 deaths are linked to pollution according to the WHO study and the German SPIEGEL reports that particulate matter pollution in some German cities like Berlin or Leipzig is significant.

Of course pollution is not a direct risk to data centers or IT equipment like an earthquake or flood, but it has a significant influence when it comes to sustain one of the most important resources for IT: Skilled people. Pollution already influences decisions about whether to outsource IT to certain countries especially in South-east Asia. It becomes harder to find employees from Western countries that are willing to build up a subsidiary or manage partners in these countries if there is significant pollution in this area.

And pollution might even be a risk to IT operations in case administrators are not able to leave their homes due to high Pollution if critical maintenance has to be done on-site. So pollution definitely becomes a topic for information security considerations and a gas mask might be standard equipment in your future emergency kit.

Tips against governmental surveillance

Many people currently ask what to do against governmental surveillance (NSA spying) and some managers even think that standard security measures are useless because “the NSA has access to everything anyway”. But there are other attackers besides secret services and there are also things you can do against governmental surveillance. Here is my list of the most important things to consider:

  • Use encryption. The NSA is not able to read all encrypted data with reasonable effort and if you use the algorithms and key sizes recommended by ENISA you are quite secure. Furthermore there are tools for anonymized internet browsing like Tor and JonDo.
  • Choose European IT companies instead of US IT companies. It will not only help to lower the likelihood that your data leaks to the NSA, but also to put some economic pressure on US companies. US companies themselves will demand to restrict governmental spying if they lose a significant number of customers or users.
  • Blow the whistle if you are aware of governmental back-doors in products or systems, unlawful eavesdropping or even attempted blackmailing. Media companies like the German SPIEGEL have set up guidelines for informants and sometimes whistle-blowing is the only way to point out serious deficits. But prepare to run and leave your family 😉
  • Request independent audits and product certifications that prove the absence of data leaks for governmental bodies. Choose trusted auditors.
  • Continue securing your assets because as a security consultant or manager you are mainly defending the reputation of your company. The NSA would not publish that they hacked your company. But if your customer data gets published or sold by cyber criminals, you will get huge media attention and this will damage your reputation and possibly your shareholder value. Furthermore you also have to comply with laws and regulations.

Note: There are governments from other countries besides the USA that have powerful secret services and support spying on private and company data and internet traffic without providing transparency. One self has to decide whom he or she trusts, and in how far eavesdropping is acceptable and helpful to fight terrorism.