Operations
3/11/2016
10:30 AM
Ben Johnson
Ben Johnson
Commentary
Connect Directly
Twitter
RSS
50%
50%

Must Haves & Must Dos For The First Federal CISO

Offensive and defensive experience, public/private sector know-how, 'mini-NSA' mindset and vision are top traits we need in a chief information security officer.

So far this year, cybersecurity news is everywhere. And it includes some major announcements that are a welcome change from the dismal stories about huge data breaches that we read about far too often. President Obama requested a budget increase in cybersecurity spending. DHS revealed it will begin sharing threat intelligence with private companies. And, perhaps most significantly, the White House announced it would hire the first federal CISO. This is fantastic news!

So let’s look at what will be necessary for this significant new position to have the greatest chance of success (and not be yet another disappointment in the realm of federal information-security Initiatives).

Whoever the president chooses for this job is going to be a contentious pick. This person will be the first to serve in the role and will be highly visible during a time when major data breaches are an everyday occurrence. Breach fatigue has already largely set in (I already have four free credit monitoring services—how many do I need?). Expectations for the first federal CISO will be high. So what should the resume look like for anyone seeking the position? Here’s my thinking:

Hands-on offensive and defensive cyber-security experience: It’s hard to make well-informed decisions that impact millions of computer systems if you have never had to attack (as part of security testing) and defend systems yourself.

Intelligence community experience: Every cyber-defense team is like a mini-NSA for their organization—collecting information, processing it, “fusing” it together to make it actionable, etc.

Private and public sector experience: The federal government is a tough place to navigate if you have no experience dealing with it, so you’ll definitely need some of that. But private industry is always pushing the envelope, is innovating faster in cyber-defense tools and processes, and requires leaders who can handle dynamically changing environments.

Vision: The federal CISO will attempt to set policy and focus on huge gaps—both current and future—so he or she must be a visionary.

Let’s assume we find a great choice for federal CISO (and I expect we will). What should he or she focus on?  Two of the major themes from the federal initiative revolve around two of my most serious gripes with the state of information security: poor IT hygiene and an extreme shortage of qualified cyber defenders. If the new CISO did nothing but improve these two areas, we would have an order of magnitude improvement in the nation’s security. But we need more than that: The federal CISO needs to also focus on seven other key areas:

  1. Visibility: Keep cyber (and cyber successes) in the spotlight.
  2. IT hygiene: Identify outdated systems and reduce what must be defended. There are always systems that can be retired or that are exposed to the Internet but should not be.
  3. Fill our ranks: Identify common skill gaps across agencies and grow cyber leaders.
  4. Education: Implement a program to subsidize cybersecurity education for the general public and create career paths for them into federal roles (e.g., a Cyber GI Bill).
  5. Increase salaries: Attract the best and brightest to be cybersecurity experts in the public sector.
  6. Transparency: Require government agencies and departments to share what tools they’re using, what their incident response plans are, what attacks they are seeing, and their results from penetration tests, product evaluations, and more.
  7. Private industry partnerships: Create a private industry steering committee to reduce friction in the procurement process.

This is an exciting time to see the Obama administration pushing hard to improve our cyber defenses. The fact is, we are not winning the cyber war. Cybersecurity in the U.S. and the world is actually quite bleak. But by improving funding, hiring the right leadership, and putting the right amounts of transparency and agility at the top of the new CISO’s to-do list, we can turn the ship around.  

Related Content:

 

Interop 2016 Las VegasFind out more about security threats at Interop 2016, May 2-6, at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center, Las Vegas. Register today and receive an early bird discount of $200.

Ben Johnson is cofounder and chief security strategist for Carbon Black. In this role, he uses his experience as cofounder and chief technology officer for Carbon Black, which merged with Bit9 in February 2014, to drive the company's message to customers, partners, news media ... View Full Bio
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: Janice, I think I've got a message from the code father!
Current Issue
Security Operations and IT Operations: Finding the Path to Collaboration
A wide gulf has emerged between SOC and NOC teams that's keeping both of them from assuring the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of IT systems. Here's how experts think it should be bridged.
Flash Poll
New Best Practices for Secure App Development
New Best Practices for Secure App Development
The transition from DevOps to SecDevOps is combining with the move toward cloud computing to create new challenges - and new opportunities - for the information security team. Download this report, to learn about the new best practices for secure application development.
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2017-0290
Published: 2017-05-09
NScript in mpengine in Microsoft Malware Protection Engine with Engine Version before 1.1.13704.0, as used in Windows Defender and other products, allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code or cause a denial of service (type confusion and application crash) via crafted JavaScript code within ...

CVE-2016-10369
Published: 2017-05-08
unixsocket.c in lxterminal through 0.3.0 insecurely uses /tmp for a socket file, allowing a local user to cause a denial of service (preventing terminal launch), or possibly have other impact (bypassing terminal access control).

CVE-2016-8202
Published: 2017-05-08
A privilege escalation vulnerability in Brocade Fibre Channel SAN products running Brocade Fabric OS (FOS) releases earlier than v7.4.1d and v8.0.1b could allow an authenticated attacker to elevate the privileges of user accounts accessing the system via command line interface. With affected version...

CVE-2016-8209
Published: 2017-05-08
Improper checks for unusual or exceptional conditions in Brocade NetIron 05.8.00 and later releases up to and including 06.1.00, when the Management Module is continuously scanned on port 22, may allow attackers to cause a denial of service (crash and reload) of the management module.

CVE-2017-0890
Published: 2017-05-08
Nextcloud Server before 11.0.3 is vulnerable to an inadequate escaping leading to a XSS vulnerability in the search module. To be exploitable a user has to write or paste malicious content into the search dialogue.

Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
In past years, security researchers have discovered ways to hack cars, medical devices, automated teller machines, and many other targets. Dark Reading Executive Editor Kelly Jackson Higgins hosts researcher Samy Kamkar and Levi Gundert, vice president of threat intelligence at Recorded Future, to discuss some of 2016's most unusual and creative hacks by white hats, and what these new vulnerabilities might mean for the coming year.