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3/15/2016
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Danelle Au
Danelle Au
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CISO Playbook: Suit-up & Play Offense

In the game of IT security there are thousands of tools available, but the very best strategy to prepare for an opponent is to know your own weaknesses.

“Some of us will do our jobs well and some will not, but we will all be judged on one thing: the result.” – Vince Lombardi

Coaching legend Vince Lombardi was known as an effective motivator who coached the Green Bay Packers to five NFL championships, including victories in the first two Super Bowls, during his nine-year tenure with the team. Lombardi and his legacy are so revered in the game of football that the NFL’s championship trophy is named after him. Today’s enterprise should take note of Lombardi’s focus on results and then buckle up their chinstraps and get out on the field.

You see, in the game of IT security there are thousands of tools available, different methodologies for approaching the task, and a wide range of skill sets that can be applied depending upon the size of your enterprise, the industry you happen to work in, the configuration and constitution of your network. Different organizations will have different appetites for risk and differing priorities; who is to say whether any of them is right or wrong provided they work? After all, as Coach Lombardi said, it is the results that matter.

Today’s CISO isn’t evaluated based on their information security philosophy; they are evaluated based on whether or not data remains secure. One paradox of the range of products and innovations in IT security is that with so many choices, today’s CISO is faced with the challenge of constantly monitoring and managing their security tools, but also keeping pace with software and infrastructure updates and patches.

When a coach prepares for the start of a season, they look at the available assets and determine how best to deploy those assets by drawing up a playbook. If there are deficiencies, the coach may choose to either acquire new talent or train an existing player in order to address the need. And make no mistake—the opponent has a playbook, too.

Self-scouting is vital in this regard. In order to properly prepare for an opponent you must know where your weaknesses are and take steps to address them. That is why it is imperative for the CISO to find those vulnerabilities before the opponent, patch the flaws, close the back doors, and be prepared for the opponent’s attacks. After all, the hacker’s playbook is filled with all kinds of dirty tricks designed to find and exploit every possible point of entry in your network.

The consequences of failing to self-scout can be devastating. According to the 2015 Verizon DBIR report, in 60% of breaches hackers were able to compromise organizations within just a few minutes by exploiting well-known flaws with proven techniques. Worse, most breaches remain undiscovered for weeks and even months, compounding the damage. Valuable intellectual property, sensitive personal information, money, trust and reputation all lost while the hackers siphon away their treasure.

Understanding the hackers’ playbook can help to inform today’s CISO strategy and put the enterprise on the right path for tackling the challenge of protecting your organization’s crown jewels. Once again, we can draw inspiration from Coach Lombardi, who said: Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.”

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Danelle is vice president of strategy at SafeBreach. She has more than 15 years of experience bringing new technologies to market. Prior to SafeBreach, Danelle led strategy and marketing at Adallom, a cloud security company acquired by Microsoft. She was also responsible for ... View Full Bio
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