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Fixing The Security Disconnect

A disconnect often exits between security teams and the population they service. I'm not referring to just users -- of course, you'll pretty much always find a rift between security and users -- but instead I mean the disconnect that often occurs among network groups, system administrators, developers, and similar groups.
A disconnect often exits between security teams and the population they service. I'm not referring to just users -- of course, you'll pretty much always find a rift between security and users -- but instead I mean the disconnect that often occurs among network groups, system administrators, developers, and similar groups.The security team is often seen as the bad guys because we have to swoop in at the most inconvenient times to quarantine an infected or compromised system, block access to certain Websites because of security concerns or because management says they are bad for productivity, and the list goes on. While the desktop support group simply wants users happy and the desktops to be working well, security wants restrictions in place to prevent malware infections, data leakage, and unauthorized software installation.

It's interesting to think about this problem considering I worked my way up through the ranks, starting off in desktop support, moving through system administration, and then landing in security. The blog post, "on training your systems administrators" by terminal23.net's LonerVamp, reminded me of the problem I battle on a regular basis, but hadn't given much thought to lately. We have to keep other groups plugged into security and up-to-date on current threats if we are going to be effective at securing our networks, systems, and data.

The simple fact is we are outnumbered. John Strand states it matter of factly in his blog post, which inspired LonerVamp's post. We are outnumbered, and we need help because we're not the only ones. We need to realize that and work together with others, namely system administrators, in order to tap those human resources on the front line.

It was item #6 that was funny, yet so very true. Best practices call for least privilege. PCI dictates separation of duties. But "in the real world, business IT is run by admins with godlike access." If you don't think so, then you're either turning a blind eye to what's going on around you, or you've hamstrung your admins with protocol that slows them down with burdensome hoops they have to jump through in other to get their jobs done.

Remember the different sayings about how security is a constant battle of trying to secure your systems while maintaining the functionality and productivity of users? That applies to sysadmins also. Keep them close, help them do their jobs, and they can be invaluable resources in knowing what's really going on within your organization. Plus, a little cross-training can help them be your first line of response and help with identifying small issues before they become big problems.

Have a Merry Christmas!

John H. Sawyer is a senior security engineer on the IT Security Team at the University of Florida. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are his own and do not represent the views and opinions of the UF IT Security Team or the University of Florida. When John's not fighting flaming, malware-infested machines or performing autopsies on blitzed boxes, he can usually be found hanging with his family, bouncing a baby on one knee and balancing a laptop on the other. Special to Dark Reading.

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