The (Smiling) Face of FUDJanuary 22, 2010 7:24 am Advanced Threats, Competitor Hype, Regulatory, Situational Awareness
We recently sent an opt-in email to our contact database talking about the significance of Operation Aurora and the continued ascendancy and lack of advanced threat prevention/detection in many government and commercial organizations. We also offered a NetWitness proof-of-concept (POC) to security folks concerned about this issue. And security people should be concerned.
A noted security blogger correctly observed that we were “amplifying FUD” in our email blast to get people’s attention. His blog post raises a classic issue facing security professionals – does FUD help bring an issue like this to top of mind. Or: To FUD, or not to FUD.
It’s really unfortunate that FUD became a dirty word when compliance and “risk management” took over the security budget, but that’s when many organizations, began to fail at security too. While many people, particularly some CIOs in hindsight, would argue that compliance has helped increase the focus and spending on information security, I would argue that it has distracted many security programs into performing a large number of basically low impact or worthless activities in the name of metrics, versus FUD. And, compliance certainly has sponsored a whole class of expensive security technologies and related total ownership costs (TCO) which drain the security budget.
There’s also an unfortunate psychology involved here. Many security professionals feel guilty or inadequate using FUD as an argument because all the other I/T people have real metrics and we don’t. To some, it’s like when we were kids and everyone had Converse “Chuck Taylor” All-Star high tops and you were the one with the red Pro-Keds. Security people can’t talk about how many “9’s” of network uptime we have, or how much we have improved call center response time, or improved the total cost per terabyte of enterprise storage. Security sucks at producing decent metrics — and the ones we do produce, generally stink even more at reducing the fear of being owned by national-sponsored or organized criminal groups or the uncertainty and the doubts regarding the security of information in a world of advanced threats. Security people cringe when some C-level executive compares the cost of information security to the cost of insurance – “No one likes to pay for it, but just like your car insurance, you have to have it.” Ugh! So, we hate the FUD argument – both when we have to use it as an argument, or when someone uses it to trivialize what we all do for a living.
But I do not think security professionals should feel this way. I think that FUD still has a lot of usefulness in the toolkit of the security professional and within the enterprise security program, if applied in the right doses to the right places. One of my favorite Websites is fudsec.com. There are many good, bad and ugly uses of FUD cited here, for example, one of the good ones is Anton Chuvakin’s post, “A Treatise on FUD” – required reading for any committed FUDists.
With regard to advanced threats and other types of network visibility problems, I encourage the use of a combination of FUD and proof. The FUD comes in the form of security professionals updating their discussion track to highlight the real causes of many cyber losses in 2010, and the need for more focus on threat intelligence and operational security versus other types of spending. Current issues such as Operation Aurora should be analyzed for relevance, and briefed to senior management, and should be coupled one of the more credible surveys that show that most data losses result from advanced threat or sophisticated exploit/malware sources.
In the end, you will have to produce real evidence, however, and that’s why we put the POC offer on the table in our e-mail blast. FUD should only go so far — you should show your colleagues the smoking gun with your own organization’s data. We as a vendor could put out all the FUD-sounding marketing statistics in the world about how our approach will make you more effective at changing the face of FUD to a smile than other alternatives, but you will only believe it when it produces results in your organization, you can bank those results, and it actually reduce the FUD for yourself and your CEO. This is how it should be.