Having been working in the Information Security industry for almost two decades, I’ve seen what has and has not worked well for organizations approach to Security. One of the biggest pitfalls I’ve seen is a type of insanity in repeating the same mantras over and over again to supporting groups and stakeholders and then wondering why this incessant repetition keeps returning full circle. Guidance that is provided tends to be slightly different each iteration enough to make each case sound like it’s unique, but it isn’t.
One project manager approaches someone on the security team and asks, “Hey, our vendor says they can only support DES encryption, is that OK?” Few hours later another PM from a different project approaches a different security team member and asks, “What encryption algorithms does our vendor need to use?” To which the security analyst replies, “We cannot use anything weaker than AES-128.” In this short, but all too common scenario we have two distinct answers to the same question one of which could have serious repercussions in that DES has been broken since 1976!
This is where the need for adopting organizationally sanctioned security standards come into play. The the earlier could have been solved by having an established Cryptography standard that would mandate the approved encryption algorithms to be used in the organization. Thus, when Larry the project manager swings by the Information Security area to ask what are acceptable encryption algorithms you just point them to the Cryptography security standard that documents those requirements. When Joe the other project manager stops by asking the same question for a different project the same guidance is given and then you have a consistent standard from which the entire organization works from.
Over the years I’ve found that there is a minimal list of security domains that you should have security standards for to formalize security standards across the organization:
- Access Control
- Asset Inventory
- Certificate Management
- Data Protection
- Incident Management
- Malicious Software
- Operating System – You should have a standard for each OS deployed.
- Remote Access
- Vulnerability Management
Your mileage will vary depending upon the organization your working for and how they are leveraging the security domains outlined, but the important first step is getting them drafted and ensuring senior management supports not only their content, but their enforcement across the organization or they will end up becoming suggestions instead of requirements. Security standards are just one component of the overall Information Security ecosystem; you still need to have security policies to drive them and security architectures to ensure they are being adhered to.