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Cross-training for security – By James Tucker
We need to change the way security professionals work together – because the pay-off might just be the biggest thing most organisations can do to protect themselves.
In particular I’m thinking about how the network guys don’t want to mess with endpoint issues, while the endpoint guys don’t want to mess with networks. We’ve got these two totally separate teams with the same mission – securing the enterprise – trying to ensure security. It’s the old ‘you got chocolate in my peanut butter’ routine.
In many cases the jobs and certainly the missions are the same. We’re just doing the same work twice.
Based on the type of threats we see today, I don’t think that can happen anymore. We need to pull down these arbitrary walls between ‘us’ and ‘them’. We need to cross-train.
This is immediately apparent for me as I write this in Sweden. We are blessed not only with great parental leave but also we get to take long holidays. I’ve recently been cross-training team members to cover for long absences. No one wants the expertise that is locked up in one person’s head to be unusable, if that person goes on holiday for a month or has a baby. So our team members can always be covered. There are no knowledge gaps.
Getting over departmental divisions isn’t easy. For some reason, as humans we seem to be hardwired to want to take a side. Forget inside the IT or security team – think about watching a game in a sport you might not follow. Might be a professional match, might just be a game in the park. We like to support sides, even when it doesn’t necessarily make sense.
Now let me say at this point that I’m as guilty of it as most. I’ve been a network guy my entire career and, at times, I’ve stayed away from endpoint as if it was something poisonous. Part of me might have been thinking ‘We only need to worry about endpoints if I fail to secure something at the network level’. I still see that mentality in many companies today.
But in order to keep my customers happy by actually solving their problems, I have to bring endpoint and network security together in my day-to-day work. I think a lot of organisations would benefit from integrating those teams into a single unit and then cross-training, in order to stop threats. More concretely, we as security professionals often only see our piece of the puzzle and hold that above others as the most important. This blinds us to the overall security picture.
By cross training the network and endpoint staff, the gateway team and the desktop support team, we regain the ability to see the bigger picture. This perspective is absolutely invaluable when you are trying to protect your assets or when you are trying to figure out what happened.
Different people and teams have different skills, of course. But lack of cooperation creates problems when it comes to protecting your organisation.
Hackers are adept at finding weak points and that isn’t just about technology – it can be about weakness in teamwork, structure and lack of communication internally.
Teams must become better at sharing tools, information and staff – or even combining into a single unit. This isn’t just about larger companies but most organisations with dedicated security staff.
There is also a lot to be said about IT security pros staying up to date on their colleagues’ areas. This is a fast moving discipline and when we get stagnant the attackers win. This is akin to the player in a professional sports team training in a teammate’s position so in a real game he understands that person’s thinking and movement better.
I realise this can all sound a little like cheerleading, a little ‘soft skills’. But this is important and makes sense. It ties in to our Security Connected approach but I’ve encountered places where there is resistance to change. I can’t help but think those organisations are storing up problems for the future.
There should be no more endpoint experts, no more network experts – just security experts.
About the author
James works at Intel Security as a Technical Presales Engineer. Focused on McAfee's Network Security Portfolio in Sweden and the Nordics, he primarily works with Network Security Platform (IPS), McAfee Web Gateway, McAfee Email Gateway, Firewall Enterprise, McAfee Next Generation Firewall (Stonesoft), and Advanced Threat Defense (Sandboxing). On a daily basis, James' role includes presenting solutions to customers, designing, planning and implementing proof of concepts and assisting customers with deployment.Register Now