How is sustaining security like keeping your home clean?

Matt Luallen and Steve Hamburg of Encari (a critical infrastructure information security consulting company), recently commented on their blog at www.controleng.com about their recent work in helping NERC-registered entities (e.g., power generation and transmission companies) address their respective NERC CIP Reliability Standards compliance concerns.
December 1, 2009

Matt Luallen and Steve Hamburg of Encari (a critical infrastructure information security consulting company), recently commented on their blog at www.controleng.com about their recent work in helping NERC-registered entities (e.g., power generation and transmission companies) address their respective NERC CIP Reliability Standards compliance concerns. Regardless of whether your organization is subject to these NERC requirements, Matt and Steve maintain that it is important to recognize that focusing your security strategy on a phenomenon they call “point-in-time security” is not viable. Here’s what they had to say about the issue:

“Point-in-time security refers to the state of your security posture at that point in time. A viable security strategy needs to focus on sustainable security, or, in the context of compliance, sustainable compliance.

“This is where the analogy to keeping your home clean comes in. Let’s say you recently decided to embark upon a ‘clean home sustainment strategy.’ Ignoring your peers, colleagues, and friends calling you crazy for doing so, think about the challenges associated with pursuing such a strategy. Think about what happens after your home has reached its optimal point-in-time state of cleanliness. What happens if you do not clean the dishes in the kitchen after a day or a week? What happens if you do not do your family’s laundry after a few days or a week? What happens if you do not clean out your gutters after a few months?

“Now apply this thought process to your security posture. You may have the greatest change control and configuration management process in the world. However, think about the compromised posture of your security if this process were not maintained multiple times every day. What about your information protection plan, your patch management process, your corporate security policies, standards, processes and procedures, your testing, development (i.e., non-production environment) and production environments, your recruitment processes, your identity and access management processes, etc.?

“So, the point we’re making here is do not think in terms of point-in-time security. In order to sustain desired compliance and/or a desired state of security, applicable security considerations must be met on a recurring basis indefinitely.”

To read more of Matt and Steve’s posts, go to www.controleng.com , click on the “Blogs” link at top of page and scroll down to Industrial Cyber Security.