Partner Perspectives // Carbon Black
9/13/2016
01:01 PM
Rick McElroy
Rick McElroy
Partner Perspectives
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Lets Get Smarter About Security By Working Together

We all need help, and only by working together can we move the needle on security.

I know, I know. It’s another teamwork quote.

As a collective information security group, we know that we need teamwork, but it often feels like we aren’t a single team rowing together. We have a common cause. We preach working together with IT and the business to achieve security goals. But we still aren’t working together as well as we could be.

I travel all over the country and meet with information security teams on a regular basis. From large to small, companies are struggling to do everything. It amazes me how often we are not talking to each other. Within verticals, information security teams still are not working together to solve shared security problems. We are solving the same problems and challenges that have been solved hundreds of times by other teams, yet we try to solve them alone.

Why do we choose to silo information so that our individual programs can “ensure” security, but we’ve given nothing back to the community as a whole? We’ve done nothing to drive down shared risk of similar business models. When one of us gets better, all of us should get better.

CISOs have gotten better about meeting to discuss challenges. They have roundtables and meet on a regular basis. This needs to trickle down to team members; individual team members are still assigned work that they are expected to solve alone.

My question to all of us is “Why?”

Why are we still not talking to teams from competitors and others with the same challenges? Is it that we are too paranoid? Is it that we are afraid we will get fired for talking to “the other team”? Or is it that we put blinders on, put our heads down, and solve things alone to be the hero?

Unlock The Collective Brainpower

I am not quite sure what all the reasons are, but I do know it’s hurting us. I learn things whenever I meet with teams. Very cool things. Things I never would have thought of when I was leading programs. I see unique solutions that solve real challenges, but they remain inside the walls of the individual organizations. It’s been said before, but if we are not unlocking the combined brainpower of all individuals in our profession, we will continue to lose.

We pay “experts” crazy amounts of dollars to advise and architect, but maybe the architects at the company that shares a parking lot have free advice that is just as effective (maybe more so since they sit in the same seat as you). A cup of coffee, lunch, or a beer are really cheap ways to entice teams to meet up.

We spend so much time with our heads down working or studying for the next certification that we aren’t taking to time to talk and share. We think that ISACs (information sharing and analysis centers) and vendors will solve this problem for us, but they won’t. Until we adopt a better mindset as information security professionals, we will continue to lose.

We need to talk to each other. We need to share good processes. We need to talk about what tech works and what doesn’t. We need to share our fixes, our code, our wisdom and experience.

I challenge all of us to open up a bit. You don’t need to talk about business strategy or the next product your organization is putting out. Talk about the challenges that are the same. Talk about the threats, the risks, and the solutions. Share more and open up.

It’s what I love about events like Black Hat and DEF CON -- sitting around talking to people smarter than me who have solved challenges in really interesting ways. Talk about how you solved a problem or where your head is as you look toward the needs of your organization. Maybe you wrote a cool parsing script or some rad automation. That’s awesome. Pass the knowledge on. We all need help, and only by working together can we move the needle on security. I almost guarantee the struggles are real and generally the same. Let’s all wise up together.

Rick McElroy, security strategist for Carbon Black, has more than 15 years of information security experience educating and advising organizations on reducing their risk posture and tackling tough security challenges. He has held security positions with the U.S. Department of ... View Full Bio
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