Ben Rothke writes " Far too many books on information security focus on security from the product point of view. They equate security with firewalls, intrusion detection systems, biometrics, and myriad other hardware and software products. But if security was really about products, corporate America would be a very safe place because never have there been so many security products in use. But the reality is that much of today's computing infrastructure is insecure, and there are plenty of products in use." Read on for Bens' review.
|The CISO Handbook: A Practical Guide to Securing Your Company|
|author||Michael Gentile, Ronald Collette, Thomas August|
|summary||A most practical guide|
The CISO Handbook: A Practical Guide to Securing Your Company lives up to its title as being a practical guide to security. The book is antithetical approach to the products equal security approach, and takes a pragmatic approach to security.
The authors have extensive real-world experience and approach information security from a holistic perspective. They clearly understand what it takes to build an information security program. One of the biggest mistakes in security is that it is seen as plug and play. Buy a security product, install in, and like magic, you have this thing called data security. But that only works in the world of product brochures and marketing material, not in the real world. The book does not approach security from a plug and play perspective, but as an endeavor that requires a multi-year effort to come to fruition.
The five chapters deal with security from its true source, namely that of risk. The chapters are: Assess, Plan, Design, Execute and Report. These five areas encompass all of information security and those firms that have built an information security infrastructure all done it by focusing on these five areas.
The first area, Access, is all about risk management. Many companies will purchase security products without even knowing what their specific risks are, and have often not performed a comprehensive risk analysis. Without a comprehensive risk analysis, any security product will simply operate in a vacuum. The benefits of a risk assessment and analysis are that they ensure that an organization is worrying about the right things and dealing with real, as opposed to perceived threats. The ultimate outcome of a risk analysis should be to see if the organization can benefit from the security product.
Chapter 1 ends with an assessment checklist of various areas that go into a risk assessment. One of the questions in the checklist that you likely will not see anywhere else is "describe the political climate at your company". Too many security people think only about the technology and neglect the political implications of a security system. Not taking into consideration the politics is a surefire way to potentially doom a project. Similar questions detailed in the checklist will give the reader a good feel for how secure their organization truly is; as opposed to the often perceived view of being much more secure.
Chapter 2 is aptly titled Plan. The planning phase is meant to combine the issues of assessment and to integrate options to mitigate those risks. The way in which a specific security technology or methodology is implemented is dependent on the organization. Rather than using a cookie-cutter approach, effective planning ensures that the security technologies chosen support your security program. Far too many organizations make the mistake of simply buying products without giving enough consideration into the myriad details of how they will be deployed, managed and used.
Chapter 2 emphasizes the need for planning, and the book as a whole emphasizes the need for the use of a methodology when dealing with information security. For many security technologies, the challenges of are not so much with the technology, but rather with ensuring that the technology meets business requirements, is scalable and reliable, etc.
Building a comprehensive information security program is likely to be more complex than previous experience of typical IT projects. As well as project management, technical and operational aspects, there are many policy, legal and security issues which must be taken into consideration. By following a structured methodology based on practical experience, many of the potential traps and pitfalls can be avoided. The risks to the business and the project are reduced and those that remain are quantified at an early stage.
The planning checklist at the end of chapter 2 will helps by ensuring that the solutions identified are deployed in the context of a well designed information security program. It can also be used as a wake-up call to management that often seriously underestimates the amount of time and manpower required to create an effective information security program.
One of the added benefits of planning is that it makes it much easier to integrate new regulatory requirements into the security program. A well-planned network can retrofit new requirements much more quickly and efficiently. This is a critical need given the increasing amount of new regulations that will come into play in the coming years, in addition to current regulations such as HIPAA, Sarbanes-Oxley and much more.
Chapters 3, 4 and 5 progress in a similar manner with the topics of Design, Execute, and Report. Each chapter details the essentials of the topic and shows how it is critical to the efficacy of an successful information security program.
What the reader may find missing from the book is particulars of the various security technologies. But that is the very function of the book, to show that information security is not primarily about the products, rather the underlying infrastructure on which those products reside on. Any product that is not deployed in a methodology similar to that of The CISO Handbook is likely to find itself lacking. The product might be there and hum along; but the security that it provides will likely be negligible.
The uniqueness of The CISO Handbook is that is shows how to design and implement an effective security program based on real world scenarios, as opposed to product reviews and vendor evaluations.
The CISO Handbook: A Practical Guide to Securing Your Company is indeed a most practical guide, as its title suggests. It is quite helpful to anyone in a security organization, whether they are the CISO, system administrator, or in a different capacity.
Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.