Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Threat Intelligence

7/24/2018
03:30 PM
Joshua Goldfarb
Joshua Goldfarb
Commentary
Connect Directly
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail vvv
50%
50%

How 'Projection' Slows Down the Path to Security Maturity

A little bit of self-awareness goes a long way when it comes to evaluating a company's security maturity level. It's also a prerequisite to improving.

Recently, I observed a somewhat intense conversation between two acquaintances about a parenting issue. In this conversation, one person was critical of the other's childrearing approach. I happen to know both individuals, who are both good people. But like any human being, neither of them is perfect. Putting aside the fact that it generally seems best not to judge or comment on another person's behavior, particularly when it comes to parenting, this exchange highlighted an important concept for me: projection.

Wikipedia defines psychological projection as "a theory in psychology in which humans defend themselves against their own unconscious impulses or qualities (both positive and negative) by denying their existence in themselves while attributing them to others." I am not a psychologist and don't know all of the background information and details around this particular exchange. But after reading more about the topic of projection, it seemed to be a possible explanation for what I witnessed.

OK. But what does psychological projection teach us about security? I would argue quite a bit, in the sense that security organizations are often most critical toward other organizations regarding the very weaknesses that they themselves exhibit. This is important because only when organizations are aware of their own behavior and attitudes can they hope to improve. In this spirit, I offer five ways in which projection slows down the path to security maturity.

1. "They don't know what they're doing." I've lost count of the number of times I've heard phrases to the effect of "so and so has no idea what he's doing," "that place is clueless when it comes to security," and "if only they knew what they were doing like we do." Of course, it is entirely possible that your organization is leaps and bounds beyond your peer organizations. But, it is also quite possible that your peer organizations are more or less just as on top of security as you are. What if instead of taking the easy out of looking down upon other organizations, your organization turned its gaze inward?

2. "Their leadership has no vision or direction." Unfortunately, there are a fair number of people in security leadership positions who are not really leaders. Not surprisingly, you won't find a tremendous amount of vision or direction coming from these people. Of course, I haven't found that to be the case in the majority of instances. In my experience, there is almost always something (or several things) that we can learn from others in leadership positions. It's easy to be dismissive of those individuals. But there is much more to be gained by looking honestly at our own leadership abilities, our own strengths and weaknesses, our own vision and direction.

3. "Their team isn't adequately staffed or trained." No organization is able to provide the level of staffing and training that it would like to in an ideal world. As with so many things in business, the issue becomes a game of prioritization and resource management. There are certainly a good number of organizations that, for whatever reason, do not staff and train in a way that will allow them to mitigate risk appropriately. But many organizations make good use of whatever resources they have available. Whether your organization is resource strapped, could staff and train better, or both, a lot can be learned by stopping the finger-pointing and looking internally to see where changes can be made.

4. "Their security technology stack is problematic." I have yet to meet a security organization that doesn't hold strong opinions about the security technology stack it has chosen (or was handed) to deploy and operate. The truth of the matter is that the security technology stack should support and serve the organization's risk mitigation strategy. As long as that is the case, there are many different choices around security technology that the organization can make to meet its goals. I've sometimes heard organizations poke fun at and/or mock the security technology in place elsewhere. This doesn't help anyone advance the state of their security program. A far better use of this energy is to look inwardly in an attempt to understand if the security technology your organization uses is helping you meet your risk mitigation goals, both strategically and tactically.

5. "They aren't as mature as we are." It's far too easy to consider our own security organizations to be very mature. It's even easier to look at other organizations in our sector, geographic area, or of a similar size and see them as less mature than we are. To be perfectly honest, nearly all the security organizations I meet with consider their security maturity level to be above average. For some of those organizations, that is definitely a realistic view of the situation. Unfortunately, the laws of statistics don't allow for nearly all security organizations to be of above average maturity. A little bit of self-awareness goes a long way when it comes to evaluating one's own security maturity level in earnest. It's a prerequisite to improving.

Related Content:

Learn from the industry's most knowledgeable CISOs and IT security experts in a setting that is conducive to interaction and conversation. Register before July 27 and save $700! Click for more info

Josh (Twitter: @ananalytical) is an experienced information security leader who works with enterprises to mature and improve their enterprise security programs.  Previously, Josh served as VP, CTO - Emerging Technologies at FireEye and as Chief Security Officer for ... View Full Bio
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Small Business Security: 5 Tips on How and Where to Start
Mike Puglia, Chief Strategy Officer at Kaseya,  2/13/2020
Architectural Analysis IDs 78 Specific Risks in Machine-Learning Systems
Jai Vijayan, Contributing Writer,  2/13/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
6 Emerging Cyber Threats That Enterprises Face in 2020
This Tech Digest gives an in-depth look at six emerging cyber threats that enterprises could face in 2020. Download your copy today!
Flash Poll
How Enterprises Are Developing and Maintaining Secure Applications
How Enterprises Are Developing and Maintaining Secure Applications
The concept of application security is well known, but application security testing and remediation processes remain unbalanced. Most organizations are confident in their approach to AppSec, although others seem to have no approach at all. Read this report to find out more.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-9308
PUBLISHED: 2020-02-20
archive_read_support_format_rar5.c in libarchive before 3.4.2 attempts to unpack a RAR5 file with an invalid or corrupted header (such as a header size of zero), leading to a SIGSEGV or possibly unspecified other impact.
CVE-2019-20479
PUBLISHED: 2020-02-20
A flaw was found in mod_auth_openidc before version 2.4.1. An open redirect issue exists in URLs with a slash and backslash at the beginning.
CVE-2011-2498
PUBLISHED: 2020-02-20
The Linux kernel from v2.3.36 before v2.6.39 allows local unprivileged users to cause a denial of service (memory consumption) by triggering creation of PTE pages.
CVE-2012-2629
PUBLISHED: 2020-02-20
Multiple cross-site request forgery (CSRF) and cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerabilities in Axous 1.1.1 and earlier allow remote attackers to hijack the authentication of administrators for requests that (1) add an administrator account via an addnew action to admin/administrators_add.php; or (2) c...
CVE-2014-3484
PUBLISHED: 2020-02-20
Multiple stack-based buffer overflows in the __dn_expand function in network/dn_expand.c in musl libc 1.1x before 1.1.2 and 0.9.13 through 1.0.3 allow remote attackers to (1) have unspecified impact via an invalid name length in a DNS response or (2) cause a denial of service (crash) via an invalid ...