Getting Ahead of the Security Poverty Line 5: Security Awareness Enhancement Practices

This part of the keynote is dedicated to optimization of security awareness training programs, and the common drawbacks of external audits for organizations.

Let’s talk about a couple of other problems and things we’ve done to deal with them. Security awareness – anybody here involved in security awareness training? I feel sorry for all of you who raised your hands.

Auditing: the core problem and solution

Auditing: the core problem and solution

So, this is the problem: we let auditors talk to us about security awareness, and what do auditors say? “Every employee needs to have security awareness training once a year.” And we have to write it down that they took that training. In fact, what’s really funny about this one is: we decided, when we went to SSH keys for our network, that we would have every one of our employees sign a policy about the passphrase requirement for their SSH key, because we weren’t going to monitor, we didn’t want to be able to look at their SSH identities.

So, we had them sign a policy that said they would do it, and our auditors found out they were signing policies, and they said: “We want to audit those policies.” So, by the time they asked us to audit those policies, we had a pretty big stack of paper; there was every policy ever signed, stuck in somebody’s filing cabinet. And when the auditors showed up they said: “Here are 10 people we’d like to see the policy for.”

So, the first thing that one of my employees did was he said: “I’ll put it at least all into in a binder and I’ll alphabetize them,” – made it a little bit easier. But this was ludicrous: we were spending time chasing down pieces of paper that ultimately only our auditors cared about. And we were making people spend time printing it out and sending it back to us and giving it to their managers to sign that they had done so.

In-house security awareness certification

In-house security awareness certification

So, what we decided is, let’s get the auditors out of the loop of actual awareness training. First thing I have to do is I have to teach people, I have to say: “Look, security is a core principle, everybody has to know that. So, this is our entire security awareness training program from a mandate perspective.” This is it, one webpage (see image).

You go to this webpage and it says: “Why do we care? We care because our customers care. Our customers are doing financial transactions, health care, this is it.” They get to the bottom of this page, and to make sure they know what they’re doing they get a little click sign which says: “Here’s what clicking this means. This means that you have read this policy, you understand how to get more data, because we have links on that page, and you’re acknowledging that you got security awareness training.” And you click the button.

Sample database entry

Sample database entry

And when you click the button, it goes into a database. And in that database – this is my entry out of that database as of a couple of days ago (see image) – it writes down when you last received that training. This is so effective: you can see how many other departments came to us and said: “Can we use this system too?” Akamai maintains 97.68% compliance with annual security awareness up-to-date training. It took me 2 minutes to go find out that number; those were the only 2 minutes anybody spent overseeing our security awareness program. That’s it.

Now, we don’t stop there, because we acknowledge this is for auditors. But 2 human-minutes per year to go look at how much time is being taken on security awareness training, and about another 3 minutes to go read the page to make sure I don’t need to update it – and that’s all we’re doing. That’s our entire cost. That is security value: we are spending almost no resources, massive capability, and when our auditors show up we have a query that gives them the whole database.

So, when they show up and say: “We want to look at these 10 people,” we say: “We don’t have time to find 10 people. Here’s all 2500, you can go find them.”

Then we go around and we teach people vey specific security awareness things. We teach everybody who answers the telephone at Akamai about social engineering. The recovery, at least within the tech business, has caused us to be targets of social engineering, not from the normal folks you might think about – but from headhunters, they’re calling us all the time; wealth management folks call us all the time.

If you get caught by a social engineer, tell us about it so nobody else gets caught.

So, we have a system where, if you get a social engineering call, you send an email about it to socialengineering@akamai.com. It’s not actually quite that, so if you send an email it won’t work. But you send mail to that list – and you’re on that list; if you answer a telephone, you’re on that mailing list. So, as soon as someone calls one of our phone numbers and gets caught, we send mail to everybody else who will answer a telephone, which says: “Here’s exactly what the profile of the attack was; here’s who they pretended to be; here’s what they wanted; here’s how they tried to claim that I should help them.”

And then when they call the next person, the next person is already ready for it. And if you gave something out, send a mail also; we do not punish failure. If you get caught by a social engineer – we expect that to happen from time to time – tell us about it so nobody else gets caught. This is the type of important training to give people. Because we have this training written down for our auditors, they don’t make us write down any other trainings. And that’s the important thing: ensuring that we can provide good value into our business.

Read previous: Getting Ahead of the Security Poverty Line 4: Effecting Long-Term Change

Read next: Getting Ahead of the Security Poverty Line 6: Third-Party Security Reviews

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