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.

Partner Perspectives  Connecting marketers to our tech communities.
01:00 PM
Carric Dooley
Carric Dooley
Partner Perspectives
Connect Directly

Security Skills Shortage? Dont Panic!

Focus your energies on building a comprehensive security strategy and turning to experts for guidance.

Panic: a sudden overwhelming fear that produces hysterical or irrational behavior and that often spreads quickly through a group.

Puzzle: a thing that is difficult to understand or explain.

A new year always brings with it a round of predictions. A notable one this year is panic about the cybersecurity skills shortage. I expect that some executives are feeling anxious about their security posture, but I doubt that this is going to become overwhelming fear. And unless we start seeing bidding wars, agents, and compensation packages for security talent like those usually associated with professional sports, we are a long way from irrational behavior.

What I do see is a puzzle. The security industry has been telling companies for years (more like decades) about the basics of secure digital systems. Yet, we do not seem to be listening or learning. I still see organizations (or read about breaches) that have weak passwords, default settings on firewalls, anti-virus covering less than half of the endpoints, poor application security, no encryption on sensitive documents, and on and on. To me, this is the irrational behavior. So what should we do?

Admit that you have a problem. The first step is to admit and accept that there is a problem with the current behavior. Without this acceptance, the attitude that security is an annoyance or an impediment to business will resist any changes. Getting acceptance can be tough. I suggest making it personal: Teach your people why and how to protect their data and personal info. Security awareness campaigns are not enough to change behavior. As you do this, you will see which security tasks are tedious (e.g. long random passwords changed every 60 days) and find ways to improve them (e.g. password management tools, multi-factor authentication).

Play strong defense and plan your incident response.  Security attacks are a reality so there are only two things to do: Play strong defense to prevent an attack and plan your response to minimize the impact of the inevitable incident.

Reduce your attack surface. Next, look at your attack surface: What are your vulnerabilities? What are credible threats? How would someone disrupt your business or profit from your data? Who are your potential attackers? If you do this thoroughly and objectively, you will probably find more than a few areas at risk that can be made more secure without advanced security skills, such as by updating and patching your systems, adding multi-factor authentication, and encrypting sensitive data. Document what you are doing, what you need to keep doing, and figure out how to automate as much as possible. Not to the point of creating so much red tape that no real work happens, but enough that if a key employee leaves you are not wondering what doors have been left open.

Use metrics to reduce risk. Think hard about how to measure what you are doing, because what gets measured gets done, and how to report on it from the cubicle level to the board level. Cubicle dwellers need to know what is expected of them and what the consequences of resistance or avoidance are. Your operations team needs to know when there is a mismatch between controls and objectives. Management needs to know which processes are leading to weak controls or outright bypass. The board needs to know the current risks, and whether the organization is getting more or less secure.

I am not suggesting that this is simple or easy, but most of it does not require advanced security or hacking skills. In the era of YouTube, SecurityTube, Black Hat (the conference, not the movie), hackerspaces, and so many more online resources, the information that you and your security people need is available. When you do have need for some specific or advanced skills, look to consultants, vendors, or managed service providers for a trusted expert.

Security is a web of dependencies, and you need a holistic approach to make it truly effective. Build a strategy that covers infrastructure, applications, data, people, and incident response. Consider calling some experts before bad things happen. But don’t panic.

Carric Dooley has extensive experience leading comprehensive security assessments as well as network and application penetration tests in a wide range of industries across North America, Europe, and Asia. As the Worldwide VP of Foundstone Services at McAfee, part of Intel ... View Full Bio
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Oldest First  |  Newest First  |  Threaded View
Marilyn Cohodas
Marilyn Cohodas,
User Rank: Strategist
1/26/2015 | 4:17:34 PM
Admit that you have a problem....
Assuming that "you" is referring to "users," I'm wondering what security awareness tools community members find to be the most (or least) effective ...
User Rank: Apprentice
1/28/2015 | 8:52:14 AM
Security Annoymous
Admit that you have a problem. The first step is to admit and accept that there is a problem with the current behavior


Hi!  I'm Dave and I'm powerless over patching.
User Rank: Author
1/28/2015 | 12:31:51 PM
Program development, policy, incident response and awareness
I would concur, you have many valid points we all need to address:

1.  Fully utilize all your current info security technology (so many only use 25% of the features)

2.  Bring people up to speed on the program and why they can make a difference

3.  Plan, practice and test your incident response plan

4.  Limit risk, what is  your exposure?

5.  Roles and responsibilities training, everyone is part of the team


And last but not least

6.  It's not easy- but there is always help!


User Rank: Apprentice
1/28/2015 | 1:17:34 PM
Re: Admit that you have a problem....

Well, it's an awareness program.

Posters, screen savers, annual certification quizzes – but in some recent conversations with clients, we discussed "making it personal".

Have a hacker come in and show examples of how bad guys steal your Twitter and Facebook account, or get into your banking info. Pragmatic, amusing demos are entertaining, and convey the point – raising awareness (which is key both up and down the org).

The idea is to get people to practice good Internet hygiene at home, and we are hoping that translates into better behavior at work. Hopefully we learn to think before we click.


Marilyn Cohodas
Marilyn Cohodas,
User Rank: Strategist
1/28/2015 | 1:33:40 PM
Re: Admit that you have a problem....
I like that idea of having a hacker actually demonstrate how easy it is for bad guys to steal personal information and data via social media accounts like Twitter and Facebook. Seeing is definitely believing. Awareness will never be sold as an abstract concept. It is personal!  
COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
Dark Reading Staff 6/1/2020
Stay-at-Home Orders Coincide With Massive DNS Surge
Robert Lemos, Contributing Writer,  5/27/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: "Well I dont run on MacOS, so I need to take extra precautions"
Current Issue
How Cybersecurity Incident Response Programs Work (and Why Some Don't)
This Tech Digest takes a look at the vital role cybersecurity incident response (IR) plays in managing cyber-risk within organizations. Download the Tech Digest today to find out how well-planned IR programs can detect intrusions, contain breaches, and help an organization restore normal operations.
Flash Poll
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
PUBLISHED: 2020-06-02
address_space_map in exec.c in QEMU 4.2.0 can trigger a NULL pointer dereference related to BounceBuffer.
PUBLISHED: 2020-06-02
A NULL pointer dereference was found in the libvirt API responsible introduced in upstream version 3.10.0, and fixed in libvirt 6.0.0, for fetching a storage pool based on its target path. In more detail, this flaw affects storage pools created without a target path such as network-based pools like ...
PUBLISHED: 2020-06-02
Istio 1.4.x before 1.4.9 and Istio 1.5.x before 1.5.4 contain the following vulnerability when telemetry v2 is enabled: by sending a specially crafted packet, an attacker could trigger a Null Pointer Exception resulting in a Denial of Service. This could be sent to the ingress gateway or a sidecar, ...
PUBLISHED: 2020-06-02
Multiple products that implement the IP Encapsulation within IP standard (RFC 2003, STD 1) decapsulate and route IP-in-IP traffic without any validation, which could allow an unauthenticated remote attacker to route arbitrary traffic via an exposed network interface and lead to spoofing, access cont...
PUBLISHED: 2020-06-01
Python-RSA 4.0 ignores leading '\0' bytes during decryption of ciphertext. This could conceivably have a security-relevant impact, e.g., by helping an attacker to infer that an application uses Python-RSA, or if the length of accepted ciphertext affects application behavior (such as by causing exces...