That’s right, it isn’t important. I realize that it matters to most of the people reading this. What I have recently realized, however, is that it really doesn’t matter to most. We in the industry are in denial about our place in the scheme of things. It’s self-evident to us that information security is of vital importance. We talk about the massive market for IT security, the amount of press breaches are given, and the big push for compliance and increased security across all standards. Still, it’s just not that important to enough people. Symantec had roughly $6b in revenue last year. While they were doing that, Avon sold $11b worth of cosmetics using a network of door to door salespeople. Think about it.
The IT security market is considerable. Gartner estimates it to be in the realm of $85b a year. $85b is a lot of money. Having said that, there was more money spent on commercial cleaning and garbage removal last year than there was on IT security. So really, how important are we? While the threat of a dirty office is no laughing matter, I don’t think it is quite as important as keeping your data secure.
We talk a lot about user awareness and training, and yet I think we’ve failed in that it’s something that we mention to people and then forget. It’s very much a “do as I say and not as I do” mentality. We speak to organizations and groups about awareness, but do little ourselves to spread that awarenes. I’m as guilty as anyone in this regard. Three years in, and the most my friends and family can say of my business is that I do “fancy anti-virus or something”. This is usually followed up by a request to “speed their computer up”. The number one question I get from the average consumer? “Is it safe to use my credit card online?” Nearly twenty years on, and we still haven’t answered a single question for the general public.
Most people have a very good knowledge of “real world” crimes. It makes sense, they’ve been around longer and get all the good TV shows. What we need to do is translate cyber crimes into “real world” crimes. Most people think they know what a virus is, or what a hacker does. Mostly though, they just don’t. I have had far too many conversations with C-level execs and VPs who have absolutely no clue. It’s disheartening when you speak to the CIO of a Fortune 50 company who doesn’t know what a botnet is. It’s disheartening, but it’s also enlightening. We need people to understand that what happens online affects the real world, and them directly. In short, we need to make information security important to them personally.
It’s up to us as security professionals to make it important to everyone. It’s up to us to help people understand. We need to step outside of the security groups and the IT crowd. We need to talk to the business leaders, the financial teams, the HR groups, all of them. We should be talking to our friends, our colleagues, that aunt that keeps sending out the cute slideshows. If we ever want the average user to “get it”, we need to help them do so. Until then, it just won’t be important.
While we need to exchange ideas and information with our peers, what I think is even more crucial is that we spend more time talking to the uninitiated. It’s great to see all the experts at an event, but what would help our industry more is to see the non-experts at these events. If we keep talking to other experts and rely on them to spread the word, we’ll continue to fail.
So do we start at the top? Should we try to get the government to mandate the hell out of security and force people’s hands? Do we harass CEOs to institute appropriate policies and then enforce them? I don’t think so. Good policy is important, but even the best policy is easily ignored by those who care little for it. I think we all know enough users who skirt their employers facebook policy. If people don’t understand the policy and the reasoning behind it, they will never back it, and they will never adhere to it.
Defence Intelligence has run a number of informational seminars in the past. These have mostly been aimed at specific threats or technologies, and were designed for security experts. What I’m asking myself now is, why have we never done a far more basic seminar for the layman? We feel the pain of the security staff while they try to justify their budget, but what have we done to help them? I’ve been frustrated many times while trying to explain why “we have a firewall” is not a legitimate security stance. Really, though, how much have I done to correct it?
We’re going to change. We’re going to start offering basic informational seminars and training to both our clients and our potential clients. No fees, no product pitch, just basic information, awareness and policy for anyone who might be interested. At least then we’ll be able to say that we’re doing our part to make security important.
Part 2 coming soon – Why IT Security Isn’t Important