The Users are smarter than we give them credit for

So, my boss had asked me last week to read the Mandiant report and see how these Chinese APT1 attacks could be detected on a network both during and after an attack. After reading the report, I was pretty saddened by just how little has been done in the last 20 years in Infosec. The tactics and protocols used to steal data are old (decades old) and stale. My initial reaction was, and is, that user’s are still not being properly educated AND held responsible for their actions. We’re letting the users off too easily! Corporations are still trying to solve a people problem with software or appliances.

Take a look at the top 15 Security startups of 2013 ( Now, look at how many of these software products ASSUME that the user will do the wrong thing and click on a link or an attachment. We have sandbox technology so that when the user downloads the malware, software can fix it (remember Pelican SafeTNet from late 90′s early 2000′s). We have software that steers employees away from bad websites (how does this work? A list of bad sites won’t work…downloading the page and running static checks won’t work…I dunno…would be interesting to hear more, but I digress).

Look, if your kids were prone to starting fires while cooking food, is the fix to create a million dollar stove that auto-senses when the heat is too high or when the smell of burnt food is in the air and automatically shuts down? Or, is the fix to teach your kids the proper way to use the stove? If I was a Corporate Security officer, I would make user education a top priority. I would even be willing to bring in a company that specialized in user security education (train the trainer type stuff). That would be money well spent. Every new user gets a class in computer security complete with a hands-on lab, test, and an Acceptable Use policy that they sign after completion. Existing users have to “re-certify” every year when they get a performance review.

Next, hold the user accountable for their actions after completing said training. In this day and age, a compromised computer inside the network is a license to steal. Having a computer with Internet access is a serious responsibility. If you mess up and do what you were trained NOT to do, then you are punished. Keep messing up and you get your pink slip. The user’s aren’t as stupid as we make them out to be. If their actions impact their bottom line, they will act accordingly. If we don’t hold the user responsible, why do they have any reason to change their behavior?

And, on a related tangent, maybe I’m just too old school but I don’t understand why a company would allow their employees (paid to do a Corporate-related job) to surf social media, p2p, job-search sites, dating sites, web-based email, etc. etc.