Pratum Blog

Are you a college student majoring in Computer Engineering (CE), Computer Science (CS), Computer Information Systems (CIS), Management Information Systems (MIS), Network Engineering or other computer related field?  Have you taken any classes yet where IT risk management, information security, privacy or regulatory compliance has been the focus?  Do you know what SOX, HIPAA, PCI and FISMA are?

If not, you need to.  Large portions of your first job out of college could be spent on issues such as writing secure code, designing a network to meet regulatory compliance, implementing 2 factor authentication and other security related duties.  Do you feel prepared for this?

I just did some very quick and informal research on undergrad programs in Computer Science at large public research universities across the country.  Shockingly one had an information security course in the core requirements.  Even then it was one of 3 courses in a "pick 2" category so it wasn't required for graduation.

If you are a college student and you haven't spent at least 1/2 of a semester dealing with information security and privacy principles you are ill prepared to face the challenges that will come at you full throttle after graduation.  Use one of your electives to get these necessary skills and be a leg up when you go to interview for that first job.  If your school doesn't offer any courses on information security then This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  I'll be happy to mentor you to help you find some high quality (and in most cases free) resources.

The 2012 defense funding bill includes provisions for the Secretary of Defense to initiate offensive cyber-attacks at the direction of the President.  Quite frankly I commend this public endorsement.  If you think it hasn't already happened you're living under a pretty dark rock.  Anything that gives us an advantage over our enemies who have publicly stated their desire to destroy America and it's way of life is welcomed.  Anything that helps keep our soldiers, airmen and sailors out of harm's way a little longer is great too.

The one thing we must not ignore though is that a cyber-attack carried out by the U.S. against one of our adversaries may result in a response most Americans won't be prepared for.  Typically the rules of engagement for U.S. troops is one of equal and proportionate response.  In other words, you don't answer small arms fire with a nuke.  We are used to this from our enemies as well.  However, if our adversaries cannot carry out sophisticated cyber-attacks in response to our cyber initiatives their only recourse is a traditional military response.

We live in the dawn of a new age.  The military has used information warfare for decades.  Big companies battle with it as well.  The front lines are expanding daily.  Are we ready?  I certainly hope so.

Yesterday at the ISSA chapter meeting here in Des Moines we began with a discussion of mobile devices and how organizations are developing policies around use of personal devices for work purposes.  As expected it ranged from only company devices are allowed for limited functions to any devices is allowed for anything it can access.  We quicly moved into discussions on the impact newer generations of workers, social media, regulations such as HIPAA and mobile devices have on how we approach data security.

One member made the comment that a new CISO was brought in a few years ago to their organization that made a big difference.  This executive had the ability to articulate risk to the other executives in a fashion they understood.  They now have more money to fix issues than they've ever had in the past.  For this organization, pitching the security needs in terms of risk and quality improvement made all the difference.  I've been expousing this philosophy for years and can attest to it's impact.  If you can't articulate the need in a way that ties into the business objectives you're simply rambling.  Helping executives see how security and IT risk management goals tie into the larger organziational goals and you'll find the path is often paved before your very eyes.

If you're in the Des Moines area and intersted in information security, IT risk management and compliance, I'd encourage you to check out the Information Systems Security Association (ISSA) chapter meetings.  We meet monthly in West Des Moines, IA and will be adding web conferencing in the near future for those of you in other areas of the state.  Feel free to contact me or check out the chapter website ( for more details.

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