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The CISO Handbook 48

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
pages 314
publisher Auerbach Publications
rating 9
reviewer Ben Rothke
ISBN 0849319528
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.

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The CISO Handbook

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  • The summary alone makes me want to buy that book. Security is not about products, but about safety practices.
  • by LargoSensei ( 896728 ) on Friday November 04, 2005 @02:59PM (#13952073)
    Thats great and all for the digital front, but dont forget about the social front. Thats where most threats come from anyway AFAIK. Art of Deception [], covers nearly all social fronts, and how to help defend against social engineers. Not suggesting this as a replacement, but as a supplement.
  • by Otter ( 3800 )
    Apparently the previous review ("I give it 10/10. Score: 8/10") has shamed the system into the award of an unprecedented 9!

    It's OK, Bender -- there's no such thing as a 9!

  • "The first area, Access, ..."

    If the first area is Access (i.e. my access of your data), then you DEFINITELY need better security! Should probably be "Assess".
  • CISCO (Score:2, Funny)

    by Punboy ( 737239 )
    Anyone else read that "CISCO" instead of "CISO"?
    • Anyone else read that "CISCO" instead of "CISO"?

      I read it as "CRISCO" and thought, "mmm, lard."

      • Darn you, now I want to bake brownies. Do you have any idea how disastrous that would be? I'd burn the bloody house down, thats how.
    • No. maybe if you looked up the books ISBN number and read what the title was. It's not Cisco it's Ciso and for 69.95 they can keep it.
      • Its not a matter of being mistaken as to the book title, its a simple matter of misreading the title on the first pass. Nobody is saying that it is indeed a Cisco book, I'm saying at first glance I thought thats what the article title was.
    • ...and i saw it upwards of 10 times

      now THAT is great product association
    • Yeah, I did at first, but then caught myself and read it again. It just took me a second to remember cisco and security have nothing in common.
    • Damm, I got as far as your comment before going back and rereading the headline.

      Never heard of CISO though.. are you *sure* it's not just a mistype?
      • I thought the same thing at first.

        No, that is apparently correct, though I had never seen that acronym before and had to look it up to be sure: []

        Chief Information Security Officer (CISO)

        The position of CISO is relatively new in most organizations. The CISO should be providing tactical information security advice and examining the ramifications of new technologies. In most corporations the CISO reports to the CIO or CTO. The CISO role does not usually include re
  • The book is antithetical approach to the products equal security approach, and takes a pragmatic approach to security.

    I think you are trying to say something here. Try again.

  • Anybody who attempts to solve their organizations' security issues by going out and buying something to slap into the network needs to be cock-punched. That much should be obvious.

    On the other hand, anybody who makes a living writing books about why it's a bad idea to do it should probably be cock-punched, too.

    I've sat through waaaay too many seminars taught by swaggering little ex-cop six sigma management flunkies who vomit out more technical jargon and meaningless acronyms about proccess and procedures

  • What is this security thing that you speak of? There will never be a secure computing environment as long as we have users
  • Lets see: How about we describe the chapter titles, and use big words? Yeah! That'll work.

    Examples of the content, especially what they chose to exemplify as risks, would make for a much better review. As it stands, I have no idea if the content rambles for pages and pages about things that I consider to be trivial, or if they really do a good job at covering risk assesment areas I don't know about or want more detail than I have about.
  • Let's not forget that the audience for this book are C-level execs in charge of information security. If folks at that level need to be told that results need to be measured, that access needs to be controlled, that risks need to be managed, then they aren't fit for the positions they hold.

    Consider what an equivalent book would be for CFOs --"It ain't just calculators"

    No shit.
    • >the audience for this book are C-level execs in charge of information security.

      I would think that the audience is a bit broader. Perhaps those with aspirations and ambitions to reach that sort of postition? Also seems like a good book for information consultant wanna-be's.

      Kind of like CEO magazine -- I've seen it on desks of managers and directors. They aren't the CEO, but they want to know what kind of crack the higher-ups are smoking.
  • Thank you Ben, for taking the time to review our book, and a huge THANK YOU! for your kind words. Our intention was to write something that both IT and security professionals can truly get a lot out of, and to be honest we're very happy with the end result. On behalf of Mike, Ron, the good folks at Auerbach, and everyone else who helped out in putting together The CISO Handbook, thank you very much! Tom August
  • To answer a question raised by several Slashdot readers, the first section of the methodology in the book is titled "Assess", not "Access". The goal with this section is to first assess all of the external and internal factors driving the need for information security in your enterprise, and then moving forward from there.

    Hope that helps!

    Tom August

  • .. I believe Bruce Schneier already beat this issue to death - security is a process - that can not be gained from a book or a product or a tool or whatever... If the book moves you in the right direction, it's worth a read. Check out his short essay [] on this.
    • You're right; Schneier doesn't stop talking about this (and I mean that in a good way). The same with Ross Anderson. I have only a tangential - and entirely academic - experience of security, but even I can see that the book isn't saying anything as revolutionary as the reviewer makes out.
  • It's really too bad the books cover sucks so bad. I would've expected something a little nicer than a compass. And also.... they didn't capitalize all of CISO on the cover. As you would normally do when using an Acronym.

    Since when is Ciso a word?

    The Ciso Handbook []

When your work speaks for itself, don't interrupt. -- Henry J. Kaiser