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No Infosec Sacred Cows

July 20th, 2012 13 comments

We have sacred cows in infosec, apparently. I read a blog post by Dave Aitel about security awareness yesterday that I really enjoyed – he took a very bold stance on a topic that everyone seems to have an opinion about. His argument? Security awareness is useless. Ditch it, and spend your time and money on technologies and techniques that actually control what users can do and what can happen to them.

Is he exactly right? No, probably not. But he took a stance, and got some thought-provoking dialogue going. What was incredibly disconcerting to me, however, was the vitriol people started spewing in the comments – how DARE he propose such a thing?! I tried commenting on the post but I think CSO flagged it and didn’t let me, and I was probably being a bit acidic in my comment, as well, but for different reasons. So a¬†few things shook out, in essence here’s what I was trying to say:

  1. People, don’t be LEMMINGS. I saw a lot of people who were puffing out their chests as “leaders” in the infosec space spewing garbage about “people, process, technology” like they were attached to Shon Harris’ rear-end after having a love fest with her CISSP study guide. C’mon, just because it’s one of the “10 domains” doesn’t mean you have to evangelize.
  2. Most security awareness programs SUCK. I would be willing to bet the majority of the awareness proselytizers on the thread are doing the same old crap with some stupid Web-based Flash thingie that people click through as fast as they can, and a little printout goes in their HR folder of whatever. UGH. That doesn’t work, never has, and never will.
  3. Given that most programs suck, what is wrong with a contrarian view? Start a conversation on new methods of security awareness and protection, but don’t demonize Dave (who has likely seen more overall than most posters) for having the balls to suggest that something BLATANTLY NOT WORKING for most should be canned.

I generally think security awareness is ridiculous. Sure, sure, you need that compliance checkbox that asks for it. And OK, you have to TRY, I get that, too. But sometimes, we seem to cling desperately to ancient ideals and practices in this field that just might have run their course. I’m not ready to say security awareness is one of them….yet. But we can and should try to improve it, across the board, or find something else to do instead.

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