Over the years, I have watched several infosec teams grow from inception to maturity. I have worked with managers, board members and the front line first responders to help them succeed. During that time I have keyed in on three key items that really mean the difference between success and failure when it comes to growing a teams’ capability, maturity and effectiveness. Those three items are:
- Cooperative relationships with business units – groups that succeed form cooperative, consultative relationships with the lines of business, other groups of stakeholders and the management team. Failing teams create political infighting, rivalry and back stabbing. The other stakeholders have to be able to trust and communicate with the infosec team in order for the security team to gain wisdom, leverage and effective pro-active traction to reform security postures. If the other teams can’t trust the security folks, then they won’t include them in planning, enforce anything beyond the absolute minimum requirements and/or offer them a seat at their table when it comes time to plan and execute new endeavors. Successful teams operate as brethren of the entire business, while failing teams either play the role of the “net cop” or the heavy handed bad guy — helping neither themselves, their users or the business at large.
- Embracing security automation and simplification – groups that succeed automate as much of the heavy lifting as possible. They continually optimize processes and reduce complex tasks to simplified ones with methodologies, written checklists or other forms of easy to use quality management techniques. Where they can, they replace human tasks with scripting, code, systems or shared responsibility. Failing teams burn out the team members. They engage in sloppy processes, tedious workflows, use the term “we’ve always done it this way” quite a bit and throw human talent and attention at problems that simple hardware and software investments could eliminate or simplify. If you have someone “reading the logs”, for example, after a few days, they are likely getting less and less effective by the moment. Automate the heavy lifting and let your team members work on the output, hunt for the bad guys or do the more fun stuff of information security. Fail to do this and your team will perish under turnover, malaise and a lack of effectiveness. Failing teams find themselves on the chopping block when the business bottom line calls for reform.
- Mentoring and peer to peer rotation – groups that succeed pay deep attention to skills development and work hard to avoid burn out. They have team members engage in mentoring, not just with other security team members, but with other lines of business, stakeholder groups and management. They act as both mentors and mentees. They also rotate highly complex or tedious tasks among the team members and promote cross training and group problem solving over time. This allows for continuous knowledge transfer, fresh eyes on the problems and ongoing organic problem reduction. When innovation and mentoring are rewarded, people rise to the occasion. Failing groups don’t do any of this. Instead, they tend to lock people to tasks, especially pushing the unsexy tasks to the low person on the totem pole. This causes animosity, a general loss of knowledge transfer and a seriously bad working environment. Failing teams look like security silos with little cross training or co-operative initiatives. This creates a difficult situation for the entire team and reduces the overall effectiveness for the organization at large.
Where does your team fit into the picture? Are you working hard on the three key items or have they ever been addressed? How might you bring these three key items into play in your security team? Give us a shout on Twitter (@microsolved or @lbhuston) and let us know about your successes or failures.
Thanks for reading, and until next time, stay safe out there!