In my last blog I drilled straight into the one of the biggest, ever-present threats in any network, zero day vulnerabilities.

I thought in this blog I’d be a little more circumspect and talk about the broader issues keeping CISOs up at night (the overall theme of this blog series).

The best analogy I can think of in describing the role of the CISO is, like a spider, we’re are at the centre of the security web in terms of over-arching control and management.

Our teams build, watch, react and maintain all of the security infrastructure across our organisations, locally and internationally.

At the same time, we’re working very hard to ensure our organisation (our people, information, assets) doesn’t become a fly in some-else’s web.

When all is said and done, this really boils down to two main area.

Managing access to systems and mitigating uncontrolled changes to systems (accidental, deliberate or malicious).

And while that sounds fairly simple, it covers a lot of ground and in practice can often be difficult. It includes network security, systems and application security, physical security, system and application access, privacy compliance, back-up and redundancy, setting the security culture within an organisation and a lot of communication between other primary stakeholders to ensure, at the end of the day, the organisation can still go about its business and not go out of business.

Communication is key, especially with the executive teams and the board as they want to understand risk to the business and potential personal liability, so it can be managed and treated accordingly. The CISO is a key person in helping to ensure they are all well informed so they can make well informed decisions.

After, all, you could just turn off the broadband internet connections to the company and a lot of security concerns would disappear instantly. I’m sure there’s a few CISOs out there who have that recurring dream. However, the business is there for a reason to provide a service or product to its customers, so this all comes with a level of risk and has to be managed.

So how do you balance it all?

Well, quite clearly, in all but the most chaotic organisations, CISOs try and architect for success. We’re not wanting to race around the organisation playing whack-a-mole on a daily basis as threats or concerns emerge, even though it may sometimes feel that way.

We build secure environments and everything that entails (people, process, and technology) but we’re also keeping a close eye on external information sources.

We listen to what critical vendors tell us about their technologies including roadmaps, patches and security flaws and performance issues. We gather intel from trusted security partners, ranging from cybersecurity groups publishing alerts about new threats as well as media reports and security vendors issuing specific alerts.

We all know that at some point something will go wrong and we need to have our incident response processes in place to help manage those times.

We also look at macro changes in the behaviour of our organisation in how it goes about its business and what that may mean to our security posture. Is BYOD becoming a more important part of our work culture? What does that mean? What about remote work and information leakage? What about shadow IT and what systems are they deploying? What third party connections or data flows are in place?

We consider the strategic plans in place for our organisation as well. How will organic growth or new branch offices or company acquisitions impact security considerations? Will it fit our security architecture? What gaps and risks do we have to manage with this process? Is this other business a square peg in a round hole? How hard will it be to fix or integrate? It all has to go into the mix.

Then there’s the fine detail of daily operational control. What signals should we pay attention to? What are our systems and fail-safes telling us? How’s our security posture? What is an acceptable risk and what’s not? What does our SIEM show us? What threats are we detecting? What are we missing and need to address? What do we have to do to address them?

It’s a complicated tapestry combining business, organisational and technical challenges into one job description and the CISO has to be the master weaver.

About Steve Challans
Steve has more than 33 years’ experience working in the IT security sector and over 20 years specialising in Information Security. He has been the CISO at Prophecy International for 5 years.

Steve holds security qualifications including the CISM, CISA, CRISC, CISSP, PCIP, and ISO27001 Lead Auditor certifications.

What’s keeping CISOs up at night?
(Part I)

Perhaps, unsurprisingly, everything most CISOs need to know about Zero Day Vulnerabilities is that they’re one of the hardest threats to mitigate against, let alone detect. That kind of says it all.

Zero Day Vulnerabilities are tough to see coming and sometimes, even the most protected environments are vulnerable. While there are some technical solutions that will detect potential threats arising from unexpected changes to an environment related to a zero day vulnerability, they’re not widely deployed. They’re also not bullet proof.

Zero day vulnerabilities are essentially breaches arising from security problems with existing software, patches or new releases of software or firmware. They’re vulnerabilities which previously did not exist and often are not detected until someone finds them and exploits them. And even then, as in several recent cases, the exploits remain undetected for days, months or sometimes many years until someone discloses them.

The proliferation of devices, applications, cloud service providers, co-location data centres and the often complex operating environments of larger organisations can make zero day vulnerabilities tough to find. They’re usually brought to your attention by academics, industry researchers or the vendors themselves, and occasionally white hat hackers. The black hat hackers will often want to keep the information secret or sell it on the black market so they can use it for malicious purposes.

So, what to do?

Well, plenty of us just have it top of mind all the time and we spend a lot of time locking down our critical infrastructure and identifying and controlling possible attack vectors. It’s part of most ITSM programs and an important part.

Patches need to be tested and not released into production without verification and, for critical systems, usually after the initial industry feedback on the patch has settled down, as sometimes vendors can get it wrong. Sometimes patches are so buggy that they create more issues than they solve and more patches are released to address the problems they introduce. Some patches really, for certain environments, offer no tangible advantages and are never released or implemented.

So, for a lot of CISOs, unless there’s a very high security priority given to the patch and we’re forced to potentially release them very quickly, they may not be deployed. For other systems we lock them down and test in sandboxes, and test and test until we’re as sure as we reasonably can be that we’re not introducing a problem or other vulnerability.

Unfortunately, complexity is the enemy of security, and as we move into more complex systems and networks more security issues will be found. It’s part of the world now, and we must manage it.

Why do CISOs worry about zero day vulnerabilities?

It’s because, on top of keeping a watchful eye on malicious attacks, we also have to keep an eye on the legitimate technology we deploy or connect to as part of our everyday work.

It’s like having a much loved pet which one day, unpredictably, bites you when you simply aren’t expecting it. You simply can’t be complacent – and that gets tough sometimes. You just don’t expect the authorised and lovingly managed technology your team has painstakingly secured to suddenly become a threat vector. It keeps plenty of CISOs awake at night.

Why else do we worry about zero day?

It’s because, by definition, zero day vulnerabilities are brand new to the world. While a new virus in the wild can be quickly dissected and analysed, it’s a lot harder to detect, let alone understand, the magnitude of the threat discovered in a zero day vulnerability. In one environment it may be benign. In another it could lead to a catastrophic security breach or malfunction of mission critical infrastructure or applications.

It’s unlikely this challenge is going to go away soon, although more advanced tools are likely to help in the future.

In the meantime, CISOs like me keep one eye open at all times, train our staff and ensure our people and processes are the best they can be, but still look out for the likely random appearance of zero day vulnerabilities and someone trying to get into our systems.

About Steve Challans

Steve has more than 33 years’ experience working in the IT security sector and over 20 years specialising in Information Security. He has been the CISO at Prophecy International for 5 years.

Steve holds security qualifications including the CISM, CISA, CRISC, CISSP, PCIP, and ISO27001 Lead Auditor certifications.

Through a partnership with Denver Public Schools, Prophecy International will offer an internship program to a technology focussed high-school student this coming summer.

As part of the CareerLaunch Internship Program, a lucky high school student will complete 100-120 hour internship at Prophecy International over the June/ July 2018 period learning about the Cyber-security industry and putting their STEM coursework into practice.

Following the initial CareerLaunch program, Denver Public Schools said “98% of the business partners who had participated in the program felt offering internships to high school students was a viable way to groom future employees and said they hoped their company would continue to participate in CareerLaunch in the future”.

Suzanne Healy, Director of Sales – North America and “Company Champion” for the program said Prophecy International was honoured to have been chosen to participate in the program and excited to share with the students the wealth of career options in cybersecurity.  “As one of the hottest career fields, we want to encourage students to learn more about how Prophecy helps companies develop sound system security architectures.   It is important for us as a global company to give back to the community and educate/ provide practical experience to the next generation of leaders”.

About Prophecy International

Prophecy International Holdings Limited (ASX: PRO) is the holding company for Snare, which develops a suite of advanced threat intelligence software solutions used around the world across industries ranging from defence, financial services and manufacturing to government agencies, transport and retail.

Prophecy International Holdings Limited Ltd was established in 1980 and services markets in the USA, Europe, Asia and Australia.  The international headquarters and global software development centre is at Prophecy House in Adelaide, Australia.

For further information please contact:

Media contact

Christine Bishop
Chief Marketing Officer
Prophecy International
+61 418 181 352

As Cybersecurity continues to dominate as a key issue for companies and governments worldwide, Prophecy International recently joined a handpicked Australian delegation to the USA, led by AustCyber and in partnership with Austrade.

The delegation travelled first to Washington DC for one on one meetings with key US government departments and companies before attending the 2018 RSA Conference held in San Francisco from 16-20th April, 2018.

Prophecy CEO, Brad Thomas said, “It was a privilege to join a group of world class Australian Cyber companies that have already developed products and services to address real world challenges faced by companies and governments around the world.

The Australian Industry is as good as any in the world and we, as a country and, as a company are bringing innovation to a global market worth USD$100B per annum.”

The annual RSA conference attracts approx. 50,000 delegates from around the world who experience an impressive line-up of speakers as well as an exhibition floor showcasing the latest innovations and threats in cyber security.

Prophecy International’s core cyber security product Snare, is a highly scalable platform designed to find, filter and forward event log data.

With an already impressive footprint of US customers in both federal government and the Defence industries, CEO Brad Thomas reinforced the important role  of Australian companies can play in combatting global cyber threats.

“Snare is uniquely positioned to capitalise on the growing awareness of Australia as an important partner and participant in the effort to keep companies and governments secure and to protect critical data and private information. Our core log management technology continues to be a crucial and fundamental piece of any cyber protection or compliance strategy.”

For further information – please contact:

Media contact

Christine Bishop
Chief Marketing Officer
Prophecy International
+61 418 181 352