Pratum Blog

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.

I see it time and time again. The guy in front of me grabs his phone and with a quick flick of his thumb pays his bill with a smartphone enabled app like Dwolla. A woman pulls a phone out of her purse and unlocks the door and starts her car using the new GM OnStar app. You know what’s the same about both situations? Neither of them see the need to use a PIN, password or biometric security function on their “phone”.

The arguments are all the same. “It’s just a phone, chill.” “I buy the insurance in case it’s lost or stolen.” “Do you know what a pain it is to enter a PIN just to make a call?” Yeah…I get it. Security is quite a pain. Imagine for a minute you’re sitting at your favorite coffee shop. The phone in your pocket is uncomfortable so you take it out and sit it on the table. 

After a minute you jump up to get another cup of coffee. The phone remains on the table. Would you do this with your checkbook, your debit/credit card? How about your car keys? What about a printed piece of paper with all of your passwords? How many of those are on your phone? What else wouldn’t you leave unattended on the table if it were in its “original or non-virtual” form.

I know security is a pain. As a consultant I have more VPN key fobs, building access cards and other security stuff than most of you. Trust me, I get it…security is not always convenient.  Growing up our parents taught us to protect things like our wallet, keys and other personal items that had value to others. It’s time we stop thinking about the relatively low cost of our smartphone hardware and the irreplaceable cost of some of the data on that smartphone. BTW…Watch out during this holiday buying season. Pickpockets aren’t as interested in your wallet anymore. Your phone has access to way more purchasing power that a couple of $20 dollar bills.

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