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Code of Conduct Part 3

This is part three in the series on personal codes of conduct. These are my maxims, my personal guiding philosophic code.

Part 1
Part 2

Maxim 7: Never say no to a user. Say "Let me find a way for you to do that safely."

Information Security professionals are relentless with finding ways to make their job easier. We turn threat hunts into alerts. We automate response actions. We use scripts to automate as much as possible. We do anything to make our lives easier. End users are the same way. If software will make a user's job easier, they will use it, whether or not the company pays for it. How often have you found unlicensed, hacked software on your user's computers? If you haven't checked your users’ systems, take a Xanax and go hunting.

End users don't tell us about these unpatchable, unlicensed, trojan horses because they expect us to rip away what they have and make their job harder. You want to change the paradigm? When you find this software, sit down with the user, and explain the issue. Then, tell them you want to find a way for them to do that safely. If you talk to leadership about this software as needed, you can press to get licensed copies. You can find free versions with similar functionality that can be patched. When you show users you understand what they need, and you can demonstrate you want to see them do their job safely without roadblocks, you create an ally and an advocate.

Maxim 8: Remember kids all mics are hot, all guns are loaded, and all systems are production.

Credit for this goes to @infosecxual.

I haven't had an employer yet where I do testing on 'test' systems, only to find out I shouldn't have or I need to stop because someone uses it in a production capacity. Then why is it called test? Just because something is labeled a certain way, doesn't mean it's being used in that way. Define: hacking.


I had a job where a coworker had a bowl of movie theater candy out with a spoon so people could serve themselves a spoonful of Mike and Ikes or Junior Mints and enjoy. We were having a talk about expectations and mismatched expectations, when she set out a big bowl of M&Ms. To prove a point, I went downstairs to the vending machine and bought a pack of Skittles. I then ninjaed in the red, orange, and yellow Skittles among the M&Ms. That look on people's faces, especially when they get a yellow one, became an unspoken example of misplaced expectations.


This doesn't just apply to test systems. Every time you try to cut a corner, such as quickly updating this one router or slipping in a quick vulnerability scan against a prod system during business hours, you are rolling dice. The accountability for crashing a prod system because you weren't patient is more than downtime. It affects how you are viewed. See Maxim 3.

And don't forget, you never know who is listening. Keep that unpleasant opinion about users to yourself.

Maxim 9: People will use what power they have. Plan for it.

End users may not have much power when it comes to policy or procedure. We do what we can to work with them, but there are times policy or procedure dictates certain behavior. When Infosec has a victory where a user has to do something the way we want, we have to be careful in how that is presented to the user. When users are shut down, when their process changes, if it is not done in a way respectful to users and their job, users will find a way to push back.

Understand this. People can be petty. Users are people. Ergo ...

Does the user or one of their friends // allies sit on the change board? Prepare to fight to have even the most basic changes approved. At a previous job, security had a history of hampering other departments instead of working with them. My first change was adding more vulnerability scanners to offset load and speed up the scanning process during approved windows, allowing us to shrink those windows. This change was a benefit to everyone. Two members of the board fought against all the things they thought could go wrong which made no sense. The name Skynet even came up in the argument. If you follow current politics, you know you can't argue reason with people who absolutely refuse to embrace it.

Can they deprioritize a process? Same job, we were doing annual IAM role permission reviews. The system was set up to give people a month to get it done, with a reminder e-mail at 14, 7, 5, 3, 2, and 1 days to deadline. Once you hit 5 days, those e-mails would include their supervisor. When you hit -1, that included the supervisor's supervisor. We had one holdout who it -14 days. All three in that line up the food chain didn't like Security due to some perceived slight years ago. So, every one of them argued about other priorities being more important. We had to get people with Cs in their title involved, and this made it a month late. Of course, the mitigating issue didn't make Security look any better.

In security, many processes and needs will be handed off to other teams due to separation of duties or the need for specialists and specialty knowledge. If you need something, the monopolistic provider has a good deal of power. If you haven't worked to foster good relationships, they will use that power to show you who has it. You may win in the end, at the cost of stress, frazzled nerves, and other users watching you go to war.

"Why have enemies when you can have friends?"
Charlie Hunnam as King Arthur


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