2/8/2016
01:30 PM
Tim Helming
Tim Helming
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Monday Morning Quarterbacking Super Bowl 50: Infosec Edition

How to coach your team to victory in the battle to protect corporate data and intellectual property. After all, there's a lot riding on your game, too.



There’s a good chance that on Sunday you were watching the Super Bowl, along with a few tens of millions of other folks. Even non-fans flock to this one in large numbers -- and not just because of the commercials and the halftime show. The spectacle of a contest between the most skilled on the planet at their particular craft is exciting.

Know what? If your job is information security, you’re probably up against some extremely talented opponents, as well. Of course every season has its easier weeks and its tougher weeks. But if you have valuable data and intellectual property to guard, the Vegas odds are high that someone’s trying to get hold of it.

So, while on Sunday you may have been absorbed in the unstoppable Von Miller or the hapless Cam Newton, now that it’s in the books you can take a few moments to let a few of these infosec football analogies percolate in your subconscious. You might just enter the work-week with a few new ideas to try out.

Don’t skip practice
It goes without saying that a football team that doesn’t practice isn’t going to win anything. But it’s interesting how many security teams only practice on-the-job training for data breaches, highly targeted attacks, insider data leaks, and the like. Don’t wait for the equivalent of the playoffs -- where everything’s on the line- -- to hone your skills. Rather, train frequently with exercises that simulate the real thing as closely as possible.

Watch those game films
After the exercise, or after the actual event, if you should be unfortunate enough to face one, be sure to debrief thoughtfully. This is where the watching-the-game-film analogy is useful; it isn’t about the locker-room rant if the team underperformed. This is about a methodical analysis of exactly *why* the team underperformed, and how to improve for next time. It's also key to understanding how your opponent attacks, with plenty of information available on the latest methods the bad guys are using successfully.

It’s not just about talent
Love him or hate him, you can’t dispute that Cam Newton is an incredible talent. But going into the big game at the pinnacle of an awesome season, it was easy to forget that in the 2014 regular season, the Panthers went 7-8-1, and Newton wasn’t nearly the powerhouse he was in 2015. What happened? His natural talent didn’t take a quantum leap. More likely, something in OC Mike Shula’s offensive strategy finally and solidly clicked for Newton and his teammates. Likewise, your team may have incredible talent that’s not put to best use if not part of a coordinated strategy. Or, you may have quite a few green players who could become real stars with the right training (and practice!)

Every teammate matters
The Bronco’s Miller notwithstanding, it’s interesting how some Super Bowl MVPs aren’t necessarily the guys you assume are going to win that honor. The Seahawks’ Malcolm Smith, the MVP in their dismantling of the Broncos two years ago, started that game on the bench, so you never know. If you teach all of your employees how to spot phishing emails, it could be one of them that prevents disaster by properly disposing of a phish.

Don’t wait for them to bring the fight to you
Even if you had the Panthers taking this game, you knew the Denver defense wasn’t going to stand in place, waiting for Carolina to do something after the ball was snapped. No, the very instant they could legally do so, they attacked the offense and went for the ball, or at least the stop, with everything they had.

Similarly, rather than waiting to see evidence of something bad in your environment, assume that the play is already underway, and you are ready for  in action.This doesn’t necessarily mean that you should hack the adversary you suspect of hacking you. But it does mean that you should learn as much as you can about their infrastructure, tools, techniques, and procedures in order to neutralize them before they enter your territory.

Despite the odds, Denver emerged victorious on Sunday because the team executed on all of five of these five tactics. Give your team the preparation they need to emerge victorious, as well. After all, there’s a lot riding on your game.

Tim Helming, DomainTools Director of Product Management, has over 15 years of experience in cybersecurity, from network to cloud to application attacks and defenses. At DomainTools, he applies this background to helping define and evangelize the company's growing portfolio of ... View Full Bio
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