A change to the cyber risk landscape

On June 27th 2017 a cyber-attack called ‘NotPetya’ was launched against a large number of firms. The attack was notable for three reasons;

  • it used a third-party software update mechanism to spread,
  • it was a geopolitically motivated destructive attack that caused extensive damage to uninvolved bystanders
  • it used automated techniques that previously were only associated with sophisticated manual attackers that reduced the time the attack took to spread across networks from days to minutes.

This has crystallised a potential cyber risk that has been a concern for some time such that untargeted and destructive attacks would become as sophisticated as manual attacks by highly capable threat actors.
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Do CISOs have a higher calling?

I believe the security profession is coming close to an inflection point. The growing dependence on technology in our increasingly digital societies, the systemic and personal harm that data breaches can cause and the real world consequences of failures in an IoT-driven physical environment mean that security failures are no longer just an interesting news item or a regulatory concern. They matter.

WannaCry and it’s impact on the NHS is a strong example of how lives can be harmed and disrupted as an unintended outcome of digital criminality.
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Stifling, Suffocating, Security?

Security risk management requires balancing a number of stakeholders needs. The risk owners, ultimately a board of directors of an institution, set a risk appetite (whether implicitly or explicitly) , the business managers and leaders then seek to operate within that appetite to drive growth or deliver their mission. There is commonly a tension between the hunger for growth versus the desire for safety which tends to be very easily handled at an executive level but becomes increasingly more contentious the further down an organisation a disagreement occurs.
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Portfolios of Risk

I’ve been thinking, and worrying, about portfolio risk and especially cross-portfolio risk in federated environments. In federated environments or extended enterprises it is not unheard of for strong programme management to have a good clear view of the risks in their scope of activity and in some more effective enterprises the dependencies that different activities within their scope have on each other but it is rare to have a coherent and complete view of external dependencies between portfolios and as the pace and variety of change increases this could be a problem.

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Talking Up Security

A keynote I gave to GDSCon 2017 on how security practitioners should engage with senior executives.

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