Interview Series - Javvad Malik CISSP GIAC GWAPT

For the next entry in the Infosec Professional interview series we are lucky enough to get the views of Javvad Malik, an independent consultant with a deep specialism in risk management and security transformation programmes.

Ed: Hi Javvad.  Thanks for agreeing to the interview.  How has information security changed over the last 3 years from a perception, threats and protection aspect?
Javvad: I see a lot of people talk about how much information security has changed in recent times. But the reality is that information security itself hasn’t changed. The fundamentals are all still the same. We’re still protecting the same types of data, in roughly the same environments against more or less the same threats. 

What has changed are the company business models. You have companies, who 3 years ago previously had a big high street presence, are now shutting down their shops and moving totally online. This has led to their online site getting a much higher priority in terms of business value (it is the business). So the mindshift within organisations towards information security has changed. Add to this the big spotlight that has been shone on information security in the last few years with major breaches and ‘hacktivists’ and you get a lot of people thinking information security is something new or radically different from a few years ago.

What do you think are the main threats facing organisations in 2012?
Javvad: Major change. Banks are integrating or separating into large portions. Other companies are shifting their business models to more outsourced solutions, or pushing their customers to on-line channels. All of these changes are usually run under tight timescales and the biggest threats are that the basics of security are overlooked in favour of delivery.

Are organisations ready to deal with those threats and what can they do to protect themselves?
Javvad: As a whole, when you look at the capabilities of organisations, dealing with the threats is relatively simple. The real challenge is to get security embedded throughout the organisation in a consistent manner. The most important thing they can do though is to educate their workforce and make them aware of how they are integral to protecting their organisation.  

2011 saw a buzz around 'APT', corporate hacking and 'hacktivists'.  Which do you think will be the most important for 2012 or is there something else on the horizon...
Javvad: So far, these attacks have focussed on the confidentiality and availability parts of attacking a company. You’ve had sensitive information leaked and you have had websites subjected to denial of service attacks.  What no-one has been talking about much is the integrity of data, which, in my opinion if targeted in an attack could have far more impact to organisations. Having your customers records leaked is one thing. Having an unreliable set of customer records totally changes the game.

Infosec has now become it's own profession - with job titles, budgets and certifications.  What challenges do infosec professionals face in 2012?
Javvad: One of the biggest challenges that’s been facing infosec professionals for quite some time now, is the fact that they operate very much within an echo chamber. Within organisations, they still don’t have much influence outside their own circle. There are hundreds of security conferences that take place across the world annually. These end up being run by security professionals, for security professionals, for the benefit of security professionals.

We need to engage the wider business and customers at large to make them more informed of security. A handful of security professionals trying to secure a global organisation of 100k people will always struggle.

With the proliferation of social media and mass collaboration, does security policy and governance need to have a separate approach for the management of threats in this area?
Javvad: Not really. These aren’t new threats. They are existing threats that have evolved and grown slightly. Companies seem to have a fetish of creating new policies and new teams to manage something that looks new and scary.  Existing policies should be sufficient to cover most, if not all of these threats. What’s more important is ensuring your staff are fully aware of what the dangers are and how they can best protect themselves and their organisations better whilst using these tools.  

Ed:  Thanks Javvad, some interesting points.  Thanks for spending time to share your views and experience for what 2012 may bring.