As a Senior Network Engineer I’ve seen many end-user issues that look like big problems but are actually very simple. The difficulty lies in a lack of understanding between end users and IT teams who support them. In this article, I want to give some advice to improve communications and relationships between these two groups.
Recently, I researched wireless home internet packages at a local mall and being the IT guy that I am I asked some very technical questions. “Is this running over WiMax?”, “What frequency band is it operating in?”,”Where are your base stations located?”, “Is the signal quality line of sight dependent?”.
He was honest and after two questions admitted he wasn’t technical and referred me to a colleague who happened to be the tech support guy on site. He answered my questions, albeit not too satisfactorily, which prompted me to further ask if they had a setup I could use to experience the service. Once I had access to their workstation I did not even bother to open a webpage. I launched into a sequence of ping tests and tracer routes to all the popular public resources (184.108.40.206 anyone?) as well as to the internet facing VPN concentrator for my remote access. Read More »
This will be my last blog of the month in regard to our Nations Cyber Security Awareness Month. I was able to attend a webinar, “Defending Cyber Borders – Beyond the Virtual Maginot Line” October 25th, in which a panel discussed what CIOs, CEOs, and those who work in the virtual realm; pretty much all of us, need to focus on in regard to defending our virtual borders.
The panelists were as follows:
Rick Holland, Senior Analyst, Forrester: Rick is a Senior Analyst serving Security & Risk Professionals. Rick helps clients optimize security architectures and technologies to protect the organization from advanced threats. His research focuses on email and web content security as well as virtualization security. He also supports research in incident management and forensics. He is based in the Dallas area.
Rob Lee, Fellow, SANS Institute: Rob Lee is an entrepreneur and consultant in the Washington DC area, specializing in information security, incident response, and digital forensics. Rob is currently the curriculum lead and author for digital forensic and incident response training at the SANS Institute in addition to owning his own firm. Rob has more than 15 years of experience in computer forensics, vulnerability and exploit discovery, intrusion detection/prevention, and incident response.
Steve Martino, Vice President, Information Security, Cisco: Vice President Steve Martino leads Cisco’s Information Security (InfoSec) organization to innovate and adopt the most effective security technologies and policies, reflect them in Cisco’s people, products and services, and share them with customers. He has more than 30 years of high-technology experience in security, IT operations, product development and operations, marketing, and sales.
Shehzad Mirza, Director, MS-ISAC Security Operations Center: Shehzad Mirza is currently working as the Director of the MS-ISAC Security Operations Center (SOC). He is responsible for managing a team of analysts. Previously, he has worked as a principal consultant with Symantec Corporation managing various cyber security projects, and a technical trainer for New Horizons Computer Learning Center. Shehzad has worked in the security field for over eleven years and is MCSE, GCIH, GAWN, and CISSP certified. His main expertise is in network security infrastructure and assessment, firewall configuration, IDS/IPS configuration, PCI compliance, staffing and vulnerability assessments.
Rod Turk, Director and CISO, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office: Mr. Turk’s current position as the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), Chief Information Security Officer and Director, Office of Organizational Policy and Governance puts him at the forefront of the government’s effort on cyber security. Mr. Turk manages and oversees USPTO’s compliance with the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) and implementation of IT best practices.
A major theme that resounded throughout the webinar was that everybody is a fighter in this battle. We, the end user at the device, are the ones who have to stop the intrusion first by knowing not to go to this website or click on this link from an unknown email. It was stated that many (possibly up to 97%) of these ‘fishing’ attempts can be thwarted at the end user level. It was also stated that the ability for those involved on the technology side of the house to integrate and create a relationship with the non-technology side is paramount. Together, lets to be able to teach proper protection at the end user level and create policy that is revisited, refined, and correctly implemented. Let’s not create an environment to where our “incident responders”, those who will aid in the detection, mitigation, and recovery phase, are wearing two or more hats. They have to be focused on the task at hand and be able to virtually isolate or quarantine that end user device from the network.
Rod Turk made the analogy of a hard chocolate covered cherry. The outside is protected, but once a bite, even the smallest bite is taken, and that first layer gone, the rest is just gushy and soft. He was using this to describe the security that most company’s put in place as far as protection. There has to be a focus from protecting inside out. Once again, the idea of the end user protecting or detecting malware and reporting such will allow for faster response and may also allow the responder to trace the malware back to a source.
So where do we begin? A focus has to be made in order to identify what is valuable that someone else would want? Why? Who? Why would they want to interrupt my operations? What’s important to me? What would they target? Identify those needs early and start with that. Go back to the basics in regards to solid policy and implementation; not only for end users but for IT professionals, too. Have good patch management, know what you have within your environment, you can’t protect yourself if you don’t even know what you have to protect. If you’re on a limited budget, no problem, just concentrate on what’s most important to protect right now and work from there.
Once again, the ability for the CEO, CFO, CIO, or CISO to be able to build a relationship and collaborate, I can’t stress this enough, is paramount. “Techie” talk isn’t sexy by any means, but it has to be understood on even high levels that everyone can be a stop gate or can be the catalyst to a massive intrusion. The barrier does have to come down and the old way of thinking, “I’m not a gadget guy, that’s someone else’s problem” has to migrate to the idea that this is an Asymmetrical Battlefield meaning a 360 degree fight. There are no ‘front lines’; everybody’s a target.
If you don’t get an opportunity to watch the webcast, I strongly recommend you do, then know this:
- It starts with the human end user. We’re all in this toghether, so let’s be proactive in identifying what doesn’t look right, no matter how small, and report it.
- Lean on your basic fundamentals either as an IT professional or the policy that outlines use of devices.
- Create an environment that is conducive for incident responders to do their job by making sure their main focus is incident response
- And lastly know that nothing will change if a proactive approach is not taken by both “Techie’s” and “Non-Techie’s”. Collaborate and Integrate.
It was great serving you this month! Please protect yourselves and help protect whatever agency or company you may be working for. Cyberspace is limitless and endless; we may never have a full grasp but we can start with a basic knowledge. You can check out MS-ISAC if you would like to know more.