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Organizational behavior [in information security]

Organizational behavior [in information security]


Dorothea Salo

March 23, 2022

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  1. Organizational behavior: incentives

  2. Truths about the mechanics of security and privacy ✦ It’s

    di ffi cult-to-impossible to write secure code. ✦ It’s expensive to write secure code, and even more expensive to thoroughly audit code for security. ✦ We’ve seen that privacy is a messy concept. Distilling it into code… is often near-impossible? ✦ Code is not good at respecting human contexts. ✦ Too often, neither are coders. ✦ Safety is an even messier concept, and it absolutely requires people to see beyond code. ✦ At minimum, you must understand what makes people feel (un)safe! Let’s just say tech industries do not have a great track record on that.
  3. Interdependency ✦ We depend on a lot of people and

    organizations to keep us private, safe, and secure. ✦ Including our family and friends — not just software and services! ✦ Key question: what INCENTIVES do they have to lend us a hand with that? ✦ Or can they just dump the problem on us? “EXTERNALITY:” problem one party creates and then dumps on other parties. ✦ This is part of the reason I am so adamantly opposed to “they were stupid!” analyses. It’s easy to use this to cover up externalities. ✦ Spoiler answer: Not many, unfortunately. And those incentives compete with other, often more compelling, incentives.
  4. Sources of incentive (positive and negative) ✦ Law and regulation

    ✦ Market advantage ✦ Money (cuts both ways: cost and revenue) ✦ Reputation ✦ Professional and/or personal ethics ✦ or, bluntly, lack of same ✦ Concern for (speci fi c or general) others who are somehow implicated in the business at hand ✦ So let’s take these one at a time, and see how they play out.
  5. Law and regulation… ✦ … we’ve talked about some. ✦

    I believe I’ve also mentioned legal COMPLIANCE and its costs, while noting it’s practically never a perfect fi x. ✦ It’s frequently the Only Incentive That Works. ✦ 2022: Big Exploitative Tech is pushing toothless privacy law in various US states, hoping that it will inform a similarly toothless federal law. ✦ REGULATORY CAPTURE: when the industry needing to be regulated pwns the regulators into not actually regulating very much ✦ 15 March 2022: Law mandating 72-hour breach reporting passed/signed in the US ✦ Incidents must “threaten national security interests, foreign relations, or the economy… or the public con fi dence, civil liberties, or public health and safety of the people” before they’re reportable. Actual rulemaking to come.
  6. Market advantage ✦ Privacy and security don’t confer any market

    advantage (that is, raise product sales and revenue). ✦ Why not? ✦ LEMON MARKET: it’s impossible for regular folks to tell whether hardware, software, and services are private or secure! Insecure, unprivate lemons sell for the same price as secure and private stu ff ! ✦ And there’s no analogue to Underwriters’ Laboratory (which ensures electrical appliances are safe) for online security or privacy. ✦ “INFORMATION ASYMMETRY:” customers know very little about the privacy and security of their software/services, because companies don’t disclose. ✦ A lot of insecure stu ff is a one-time purchase, so by the time the buyer knows it’s a lemon, there’s nothing they can really do. (Internet of Things!) ✦ Because of other considerations (e.g. network e ff ects, usability), even software/services PROVEN unprivate/insecure may do just fi ne. (Zoom!)
  7. Exceptions? ✦ Search engines: DuckDuckGo seems to be doing okay!

    Privacy is its main market di ff erentiator. Neeva is a new market entrant. ✦ Google’s focus on EVER MORE ADS ON RESULTS PAGES isn’t helping it, granted. ✦ Web browsers? Brave, Firefox (with add-ons) ✦ N.b. Firefox’s market share is… the smallest of the major browsers. ✦ Why anybody trusts Chrome I can’t fathom… but it’s the top browser. ✦ Mobile? Apple certainly trumpets iOS privacy (not always wholly truthfully). ✦ Conclusion: It’s possible to move a market in privacy/ security-protecting directions. Not easy. ✦ And because of lemon markets, it can feel like swimming upstream.
  8. Money ✦ Secure software costs. A lot. ✦ Insecurity may

    cost little to nothing. ✦ (and can even be insured against… up to a point, hold that thought) ✦ Privacy, at least in the pre-GDPR age, amounts to leaving money on the table. ✦ Not selling data to data brokers? Not using data to lure advertisers with microtargeting? Well, how are you even making money online, then? ✦ Except in a very few industries, secure and/or private software won’t make its developers any more money. ✦ It’s not a “feature” customers use to di ff erentiate between products. ✦ Monetary incentives here do not favor privacy and security!
  9. “Cyberinsurance” and its issues ✦ Early cyberinsurers priced risk much

    too low… and got slammed fi nancially because of it. ✦ Orgs with crappy infosec were like “we have insurance, we don’t have to care about infosec!” Then they got pwned and insurers had to pay. ✦ Ransomware particularly occasioned big payouts. So did careless data leaks and breaches. ✦ Quite a few insurers left the business because they ran out of money. ✦ Underwriting is quite a bit more cautious today, with more carveouts. ✦ If you don’t take “reasonable precautions,” you may not be able to get insurance, and if you do get insurance but you aren’t doing infosec more or less right, insurers won’t pay for incidents. ✦ What “reasonable precautions” are is in fl ux, but think “basic best practices” and “periodic security audits.” I think this will tighten up.
  10. Reputation ✦ Some amoral jerks in various IT-related industries straight-up

    don’t care about this! ✦ I can’t explain Mark Zuckerberg, Elizabeth Holmes, Jack Dorsey, or Elon Musk any other way. They. Just. Do. Not. Care. ✦ (Or, put another way, security and privacy failures don’t harm their reputations enough for them to notice, much less care.) ✦ Few organizations stake much on their reputation for privacy or security. ✦ There is also a phenomenon called “PRIVACY SALIENCE:” talking up privacy causes people to be distrustful. Argh. ✦ Apple is one that commits, to some extent. (Not that they don’t screw up—they do. But they take public stances other IT fi rms won’t.) ✦ Zero-knowledge storage providers seek out the tech-savvy.
  11. Public claims about security and privacy… ✦ … can be

    like waving red fl ags in front of bulls. ✦ The infosec community not-uncommonly WILL try to falsify such public claims, even when they’re clearly true. ✦ That said, such claims can and do overreach. ✦ A lot. A LOT. Hype really brings the infosec folks down on your head! ✦ And sometimes the only cure for clueless or wrongheaded hype is a good old-fashioned public shaming. ✦ Still… this contributes to the lemon-market problem, because thoughtfully-secured products are worried about drawing the wrong attention!
  12. Bad PR is a thing. ✦ It’s possible for a

    bad security or privacy screwup to scuttle a product or service, given enough mainstream media coverage. ✦ Quite a few Internet of Things things have gone under. ✦ Mostly this hits startups, though. If you’re Facebook or Google, you’re more or less immune, no matter how much you screw up. ✦ And both of them have. A lot. ✦ Coverage of screwups is unsystematic and gappy. A lot of o ff enders squeak by unnoticed and unscathed.
  13. Ethics ✦ Not as much of an incentive toward privacy

    and security as I honestly wish it were. ✦ I return to Zuckerberg, Holmes, Dorsey, Musk… if any of them pretends to personal ethics, I have seen little to no evidence of it. ✦ Even in my own profession, librarianship, which has had privacy as a major ethical tenet for nearly a century. ✦ “Assessment” and “learning analytics” and “personalization” are eroding librarianship’s privacy commitments before my eyes. ✦ I am absolutely furious—apoplectic—about this erosion and actively working to stop it… but I’m in a distinct minority in the fi eld just now. ✦ It’s an active, vocal minority. I have hope! But this is, and will continue to be, a slog.
  14. Concern and care ✦ Where concern for others, and their

    privacy and security, exists in technology ecosystems and industries… ✦ … it’s usually grassroots, and not powerful. ✦ It can also be pretty clueless about how power and oppression work. (Though it isn’t always, to be fair.) ✦ This is… let’s go with “unfortunate.” ✦ “Unconscionable” and “callous” and “abusive” and “vile” also spring to mind, but I’m extra like that. ✦ Example: Google activists, 2016ish-2022 ✦ Working to (among other things) get Google to stop helping ICE ✦ Google fi red them. They sued, and eventually settled. ✦ Google hasn’t stopped working with garbage humans.
  15. But IT isn’t alone in this. ✦ When I explain

    to my classes that “personalization” means surveillance… ✦ … I get a shrug from most. ✦ “I don’t have anything to hide. I fi nd personalized ads useful. Why should I care about the associated privacy loss?” ✦ The whiter, cis-er, male-r, and wealthier the student, the more likely this is their response. This is not coincidental. More societal power = less worry for self, less concern for others. ✦ Security and privacy are communal and interdependent: if some of us give them away, others lose them too—and they may need them more. ✦ We can also lose both as a society. Arguably that’s in progress right now! ✦ Please care. Even if you’re not personally worried.
  16. So that’s bleak. ✦ Yeah. I’d soften it if I

    could. I can’t. ✦ But we are not helpless. We have options for creating incentives where there are none. ✦ Money talks. Do not buy Internet of Things things. Ever. Not for yourself, and for pity’s sake, not for others! ✦ Because of the GDPR, regulation is within our grasp (for the fi rst time, really). Activism is an option! ✦ Including local activism on local concerns. (Students have successfully pushed back on exam proctoring, for example.) ✦ Explain, teach, help. “Each one teach one” works. ✦ Be vocal! Demand better!
  17. Questions? Ask them! This lecture is copyright 2018 by Dorothea

    Salo. It is available under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.
  18. Organizational behavior: organizations

  19. Your boss comes to you and says, “We want to

    expand into the European Union. We hear this GDPR thing is Serious Business. Tell me what to do about it!” What do you say? And what does your boss say when you say it?
  20. Ugh, workplace politics ✦ Yeah, I know. Not a fan

    (or an expert) either. ✦ But if you want to be e ff ective—get things done —you have to understand how workplaces work and how to work within that. ✦ Giant, GIANT caveat: this is to some extent culturally-determined, and I am not an expert in international organizational behavior! ✦ Take everything I say as US-based. De fi nitely don’t assume it applies anywhere else. ✦ Lecture thesis: US workplace cultures behave in predictable ways that (for now) are often not positive for security.
  21. New thing = Do Not Want ✦ Digital information security

    is a new thing for most organizations. ✦ 2018: GDPR created mad scrambles in many (most?) EU organizations. ✦ Organizations do not embrace new things with glad cries. (I am the voice of experience on this!) ✦ One common reaction: “What’s the least we can get away with here?” (Your readings mention “free-riding.” For most orgs, that’s ideal for New Things!) ✦ Another: “Put the new thing (and people associated with it) in a corner where it won’t get in the way.” ✦ Another: Organizational turf wars (for power, people, resources), especially when the new thing displaces old things somehow ✦ Result: Infosec underresourced, understa ff ed, under- authoritied
  22. New thing = confusion ✦ Common. Possibly unavoidable? ✦ Security:

    the Organizational Structure Wars ✦ Where does the “CHIEF INFORMATION SECURITY OFFICER” (CISO) fi t within the organization? ✦ Where there even is a CISO. Where there isn’t, who’s responsible for security? If something goes wrong, where does the buck stop? ✦ Security is hard. It con fl icts with other incentives, especially for IT employees. If IT is also responsible for security… guess what loses when there’s a con fl ict between security and something else? ✦ Other departments that might become responsible for security su ff er similar con fl icts of interest. ✦ When there’s an incident, ask yourself if security sta ff could realistically do their jobs.
  23. Micro-confusion: BYOD and Shadow IT ✦ BRING-YOUR-OWN-DEVICE (BYOD) ✦ Super-common

    with mobile (phones/tablets) in many workplaces ✦ These then become security endpoints… that security sta ff have limited visibility into and limited means to secure ✦ SHADOW IT ✦ Another clash between security and usability/convenience ✦ IT won’t do the thing you (think you) need? Maybe because security sta ff told them (or you) no? ✦ Time to do an endrun around them! It’s easy. Software-as-a-service! ✦ (I do this with DigitalOcean regularly, because putting up a server, even just for class practice, is A-G-O-N-Y here. I’ve tried!) ✦ But if data ends up there, and security sta ff don’t know and/or can’t fi x it, and there’s a breach… you see the problem, I hope.
  24. Patching ✦ It’s possibly the most basic, fundamental security advice

    there is: patch your systems and software! ✦ But individuals and organizations often don’t. ✦ Whyever not?!?!?!?!?! ✦ Is there even a patch? (Internet of Things!) ✦ Convenience, usability (patching is annoying and interrupty) ✦ Ripple e ff ect on other systems/software: if a patch is itself buggy, or if it changes something that another piece of software relies on… ✦ Control/authority. Do you have enough of it to patch, or to make somebody else patch? (Often requires root/administrator privileges!)
  25. Questions of trust ✦ Information security sta ff are often

    the least-liked, least-trusted IT sta ff in an organization. Why? ✦ They say “no” to people a lot. (Including by proxy—other IT sta ff may say “no” and blame it on security.) They increase friction. They slow down projects all over the organization. ✦ The bene fi ts they provide are non-obvious to most folks… ✦ … but many security failures are super-obvious, and they are natural blame targets even when the failure was not remotely their fault. ✦ Because they are a New Thing, they are often embroiled in turf wars and other internal organizational con fl ict. This often means less support from colleagues and management. ✦ Not to put too fi ne a point on it, but… like all IT sta ff (all humans, really, but IT sta ff have a not-wholly-unearned reputation) they can be jerks. And being treated the way they typically are is a short road to resentment, burnout, and associated jerkitude.
  26. It’s really hard to do any kind of job when

    you’re not trusted. It’s extra-hard for information security staff, whose work often depends on convincing other people to do things differently.
  27. I know I keep harping on this, but… ✦ “They

    were stupid!” is not an acceptable explanation for a privacy or security failure. ✦ Look deeper. ✦ Look at incentives. Look at common organizational-behavior di ffi culties. ✦ That’s why I’m teaching you about them. You may or may not be able to change them—but being aware of them gives you a chance, at least. ✦ “They were stupid!” does not give you a clear course of action… or points to actions that don’t work (e.g. training on social engineering).
  28. Questions? Ask them! This lecture is copyright 2018 by Dorothea

    Salo. It is available under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.
  29. Vulnerabilities and vulnerability disclosure

  30. All software and systems have bugs. ✦ The more complex

    a software/system, the more bugs in it. ✦ The more complex its interactions with other software, the more bugs are involved. ✦ Bugs are often obscure, hard to fi nd, hard to fi x. Even for top-notch, experienced developers! ✦ Bug reports aren’t always written helpfully! ✦ Bugs can come from other people/systems you depend on. ✦ Software builds on other software, practically always. Auditing every line of code in every library your software imports and every programming language it uses… yeah, no, not going to happen. Not reasonable to expect! ✦ Because all vulnerabilities are bugs (well, except backdoors), these axioms are also true of vulnerabilities.
  31. Vulnerability-specific problems ✦ Software-engineer training tends to be light on

    “how to develop code that is secure.” ✦ There are… some… best practices. At least there are lists of things to look for! (CODE SMELL: a hint that code may be buggy.) ✦ There are automated “vulnerability assessment” tools that look for bugs and code smells, but like most automated tools, they miss stu ff . ✦ This is part of the reasoning behind my explain-an-attack assignment. Knowing I’ll have CS and SE folks in this class… this may be all the exposure they get to vulnerabilities and exploits! ✦ Many QA/QC/testing folks don’t have enough background in secure development either. ✦ If that’s not bad enough, some cowboy coders don’t like to hear they’re wrong, much less be told to fi x it.
  32. Testing for vulnerabilities ✦ “Working as expected” doesn’t, um, work.

    ✦ Security isn’t a “feature” you can test normally. ✦ Security fl aws are rarely apparent during software use! ✦ Vulnerability assessments, yes… but really, what you have to do is attack the software. ✦ Our good friend “adversarial thinking” returns! ✦ Yes, this means you use the same tools and techniques on your software that an attacker would try. ✦ If that feels ethically a bit o ff … well, yes, it gets into some gray areas. We talk about “ethical hacking” elsewhere in the course. ✦ The earlier you test, the better. ✦ The later you catch a bug, typically the more complicated it is to fi x… and the more tempting it is to just hope nobody fi nds it.
  33. Common attack tool: Metasploit ✦ Let me be clear about

    this: Metasploit is used by good people… as well as garbage humans. ✦ Many infosec folks call Metasploit users “script kiddies,” and there’s some justi fi cation for that… but we all have to start somewhere. ✦ It’s sort of a meta-exploit tool? (Thus the name.) ✦ It provides a single interface for launching hundreds (thousands?) of exploits at systems—a throwing-spaghetti-at-the-wall tool. ✦ It doesn’t reeeeeeeally do this fully automatedly. You have to know as much as possible about the system you’re trying to exploit and the exploits that are available, and you have to do some con fi guration for each attempt at exploitation.
  34. On “SECURITY BY OBSCURITY” ✦ (= keeping source code secret

    so nobody discovers its vulnerabilities) ✦ SOURCE CODE: human-readable programming code (as opposed to “compiled” or “binary” code, no longer human-readable) ✦ It doesn’t work. Louder: IT DOES NOT WORK. ✦ Finding a vulnerability does not depend on reading the source code. Lots of vulnerability- fi nding techniques just involve poking at the software in speci fi c ways while it’s running. (I’m not an expert on this, but if you’re curious, ask; I know a few things.) ✦ Therefore, if garbage humans can run the software, they can fi nd vulnerabilities in it. Then they exploit them! And you won’t know! ✦ Not having the source code DOES slow down security experts and bughunters. This helps security how? Hint: It doesn’t! ✦ Extremely common misconception about software security. I want you to know better.
  35. But code sharing is not a panacea either. ✦ We

    kiiiiiiiiinda used to think it was? ✦ Reasoning behind much “open-source software is more secure than proprietary software” hype: “many eyes make bugs shallow.” ✦ Then Heartbleed and Shellshock happened. ✦ Short version: vital, exceptionally commonly-used open-source Internet utility software had serious, major, awful vulnerabilities. No one noticed them for YEARS… until they were exploited! ✦ Turned out the software had very few developers, no paid developers, ergo little-to-no bughunting and bug fi xing capacity. ✦ A lot of open code, even really important open code, is understa ff ed, underfunded, undertested. ✦ This is a recipe for un fi xed vulnerabilities.
  36. You discover a vulnerability. Now what? ✦ What are your

    actual options? ✦ Exploit the vulnerability, if you are a garbage human. (Schneier passed this by; I will too. I don’t like thinking about garbage humans.) ✦ Fix the vulnerability yourself. ✦ Report the vulnerability quietly to the responsible party. (Often with a “proof-of-concept” [often abbreviated POC] exploit.) ✦ Tell the whole world (and MITRE!) about the vulnerability. ✦ Don’t say anything to anyone. Just keep quiet about it. ✦ Which option to pick? That comes right back to incentives.
  37. Bugfix incentives ✦ Can you? ✦ If it’s a vulnerability

    in an open-source software package, AND you have apropos coding skill, you can. ✦ Otherwise, fi xing the vulnerability is not even an option. ✦ How will you and your patch be treated? ✦ If you approach a typical open-source project with an urgent security patch as an outsider to the project’s developers, expect hostile treatment. (Remember the thing about coders not liking to be wrong?) ✦ Heaven HELP you if you are female or non-binary or trans, a person of color, queer, and/or disabled… (a lot of open-source projects are rife with garbage humans)
  38. Quiet reporting incentives ✦ Will you be rewarded? ✦ “BUG

    BOUNTY” programs (demonstrate a vulnerability, get paid by the responsible party) cropping up. Most are legit. Some aren’t. ✦ Responsible parties may admire (and/or hire!) quiet bug reporters. ✦ Will the responsible party pay attention to you? ✦ Sadly, they often don’t. Even Troy “yes, you’ve been pwned” Hunt can’t always get companies to listen to him. Startups are the worst! ✦ Will the responsible party try to smear you? Sue you? Have you arrested for cracking? ✦ All of these have happened to good-Samaritan vulnerability reporters. ✦ Will the vulnerability even get fi xed?! ✦ Some orgs utterly ignore quiet reports.
  39. Public reporting incentives ✦ Credit for fi nding the vulnerability

    ✦ If you’re part of the infosec community, this matters. ✦ Pressures the responsible party to fi x the vulnerability ✦ especially if they’re known to be unresponsive to quiet reports ✦ or you already tried a quiet report and got nowhere ✦ Could get the vulnerability exploited faster ✦ which, since you’re not a garbage human, is not what you want! ✦ Could get you smeared, sued, or arrested by the angry responsible party ✦ More likely for a public report than a quiet one
  40. Incentives to shut up ✦ You’re a vulnerability hoarder. You

    are awful. ✦ “Not my circus, not my monkeys” ✦ Smearing/lawsuit/arrest avoidance ✦ Avoiding sexist/racist/homophobic/ableist software-development communities ✦ Why do a favor for a community that treats people like this?! ✦ Is the vulnerability somehow a competitive advantage for you (Schneier)? ✦ I would not have thought of this one, but I believe Schneier.
  41. So… it’s messy. ✦ I hope you have a better

    sense of why it can take so long to get a vulnerability patched. ✦ IT industries have a serious communications problem around vulnerabilities speci fi cally. ✦ It’s understandable! But it’s also suboptimal. ✦ It’s not clear who has the authority to fi x it. ✦ Personally, I’d like to see MITRE take this on. The CVE list is an impressive achievement. ✦ But bad laws that endanger security researchers and bughunters are also a problem here, and MITRE can’t fi x the law by itself!
  42. 2021: Supply-chain springs a leak ✦ How patching often works:

    ✦ Software checks a selection of update servers for a new version. (Versions are numbered, so it’s easy to check if what’s there is new.) If it fi nds one, it downloads and installs it. ✦ Why “a selection”? Because software can be developed locally, by a paid developer, or open-source. Plenty of places to look! ✦ 2021: Malware in fake patches ✦ Say you have developed a program called OurSoft locally. Patches and new versions live on an update server inside your organization. ✦ OurSoft starts to update itself… but is set up to look OUTSIDE the organization for new versions of software fi rst. ✦ Attacker puts malware named OurSoft with a high version number on a public update server. OurSoft innocently downloads and installs it! Uh-oh.
  43. Questions? Ask them! This lecture is copyright 2018 by Dorothea

    Salo. It is available under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.
  44. The blame game when organizations prefer to blame somebody else

    for their crappy infosec
  45. The “oh crap” moment ✦ OH CRAP SOMETHING’S GONE WRONG

    ✦ somebody says they found a vulnerability in our software/service ✦ our data leaked somehow ✦ “we’re trending now on Reddit” —Forrest Brazeal ✦ OH NO IT’S BAD, WHAT NOW?!?!?!?!?! ✦ Look. If you’re panicking, you’ll respond the wrong way. This is a Human Thing. ✦ Nobody thinks well when they’re panicking. The more that depends on a human thinking well while panicking… the more will go wrong. ✦ If you weren’t trained on how to respond, you’ll respond the wrong way. ✦ This happens A LOT with social-media folks who don’t know infosec.
  46. You should be so lucky as never to have to

    respond to an incident. (You won’t be that lucky.) So let’s talk about Doing Incident PR Wrong.
  47. (there’s a whole module elsewhere in the course on other

    aspects of incident response)
  48. Wrong response: bluster and DARVO ✦ DARVO: Deny, Attack, Reverse

    Victim and O ff ender. ✦ “We did nothing wrong! It’s your fault for saying something, you big evil meanie hacker you!” ✦ A too-common dishonorable and disreputable response. ✦ Everybody’s seen it. Everybody will call it out. Don’t even try it. ✦ “Our thing is the Most Securest Thing Ever!” ✦ I mean, unless you WANT all of Infosec Twitter working on proving how wrong this is… don’t say it. ✦ This is commonly how an org’s social-media people mess up. TRAIN THEM, okay?
  49. Do not be Mike Parson.

  50. Why you do not want to be Governor Parson ✦

    He made himself look amazingly foolish, and kept doubling down on his foolishness. ✦ The journalist looks like a hero! ✦ Who’s going to want to work infosec for the Missouri state government now?! ✦ Arguably, Parson made his state government a tempting target for “for the lulz” attackers, and damaged its security posture by demonizing a good-faith vulnerability reporter such that no one else will report vulnerabilities and Parson’s government won’t be able to hire people to fi x them.
  51. Better: acknowledge, apologize, make amends ✦ Basically, “Yep, that happened,

    it sucked, we’re SORRY, here’s what we’re going to do about it.” ✦ only in proper formal business diction, of course ✦ (Even if your org’s branding is informal, this is NOT THE TIME for being cutesy or funny—that’ll just make people angrier. Stay formal. Again, I’m showing you What Not To Do here!) ✦ Where you don’t know something yet, say “We don’t know {thing} yet; we’re working on it. We’ll report out when we do know.” ✦ It’s important to say this as quickly as possible! People will want answers you don’t have yet! Even when it’s not remotely reasonable to expect that you have those answers! ✦ You never want to look like you’re covering stu ff up.
  52. Better: Be specific about your security measures. ✦ instead of

    “Most Securest Thing Ever” ✦ If you meet ISO 27K or PCI-DSS or whatever relevant standards, say so, and (as applicable) say when you were last audited. ✦ “Our product/service is professionally pentested every {so often}. The last time was Y.” ✦ “Our bug bounty program has found X vulns and paid out $Y.” ✦ “We investigate all reports of vulnerabilities. Please report via {whatever way the org uses}.” ✦ Calm, speci fi c, non-braggy, non-hype-y.
  53. Bad and getting-worse response: Silence. ✦ Thought process: “if nobody

    knows, we won’t get in trouble!” ✦ This is behind attempts to hide breaches behind attorney-client privilege. It’s why breach-reporting laws exist! ✦ It’s garbage humanning anytime people could be hurt because of the incident. ✦ The coverup, once exposed, will be hugely worse PR than the actual incident was. Guaranteed. ✦ It’s also hard to put resources into fi xing something that nobody’s admitting happened. ✦ Super-common thing: infosec sta ff see vuln, ask for resources to fi x vuln, get told no. Attack exploits vuln, gets big press, org blames/silences infosec sta ff . ✦ Infosec sta ff 1) leave, 2) blow the whistle, with receipts. This doesn’t improve matters for the org, to say the least. Example: Fairfax County Schools ransomware attack, 2020.
  54. None
  55. Better: disclose. ✦ It’s not fun. It can be expensive.

    Do it anyway. ✦ I know, I know, business doesn’t care what the right thing to do is… but this is the right thing to do, okay? ✦ It’s also the only thing that lets the org keep even a little trust. Coverups will KILL the org if they get out. ✦ Oh, and, um, don’t try to bribe the vulnerability reporter to stay silent. They won’t. They want you to FIX your dang VULNERABILITY. ✦ If you do, that lets them report that you did! Which makes you look all responsible and stu ff ! You win!
  56. Goes for individuals too! ✦ If you think something you

    did may have opened the door to an attack, report it AT ONCE. ✦ In an attack, speed of response is absolutely vital to limiting damage. ✦ The sooner infosec/IT knows, the faster they can fi nd the attackers and kick them out, and the faster they can isolate a ff ected systems so that attacks don’t spread. ✦ Is there risk of a bad boss reaction? Yeah. But frankly, the risk is HIGHER if you just sit there and let an attack happen. ✦ And a workplace that punishes you for doing the right thing is a workplace that is showing its underwear. Start jobhunting. ✦ Report report REPORT, please.
  57. Wrong response: attack vuln reporters ✦ The Parson case is

    only one way to do this. ✦ Some orgs have yelled at vulnerability reporters, or threatened them, or sued them (DMCA), or tried to get them arrested (usually CFAA). ✦ Others seem bewildered at the reports and respond… weirdly? ✦ Troy Hunt’s blog and Twitter have seen some stu ff . ✦ Once responses like this get out into the infosec community, your org is not in a good place.
  58. Better: thank, investigate, disclose ✦ Thank the person reporting the

    vulnerability. ✦ Yeah, even if it’s inaccurate or timewasting. ✦ A boilerplate thank-you is FINE, no need to get creative every time. ✦ Investigate. Fix. ✦ Disclose, if necessary ✦ Tell the reporter you fi xed it. That builds trust. ✦ If there’s an actual leak/breach/other Bad Thing involved, disclose.
  59. P-R-O-C-E-S-S. ✦ None of the better responses I’ve laid out

    for you here is exactly instinctual. ✦ Defensiveness is just one of those Human Things, you know? ✦ So is fear, all the way up to panic. ✦ This means that orgs need to build, document, resource, and train on good practice. ✦ IT bug triagers need to know to escalate vulnerability reports. ✦ Social-media/PR folks need to know not to DARVO or “most securest thing ever!” and where to make a security report. ✦ Admin needs to know that butt-covering is a bad move. Because they’re admin, their moves MUST be enshrined in org policy.
  60. Questions? Ask them! This lecture is copyright 2022 by Dorothea

    Salo. It is available under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.