Archives For selling security assessments

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After All The Work That Goes Into Security Assessments,  This One Thing, If Missed, Will Make The Entire Process a Waste of Time…

When the Truth is Clear…Cancer, Heart Attack,…Breach…People Act.  With Security Your Message Must Connect and Your Audience Must Feel The Pain.

You might think it’s callous of me to compare your own life (risk of cancer) to a data breach, but the truth is, data is what many companies see as their most precious asset.

Right or wrong, given a choice, companies will part with a few employees before facing business failure. And data loss often begins the downward spiral that can’t be stopped.

However, getting the company leadership to see these business-crushing threats, before they happen, is not easy.  Following is the strategy I’ve used to turn week-long assessments into annual contracts, and more.

Rule One: Don’t Present Without The Asset Owners!

Asset owners are those with liability. Have you ever presented a cost-saving solution to IT directors or middle managers? Tell them you can save them money, reduce FTE (Full Time Employees) by 50%, and improve quality of service, and they’ll quietly dismiss you as unqualified to do business at their firm. They’d rather build an empire than save money.

Take it one step further and show these cost-center agents how their personal role in the company (along with associated costs) is no longer needed with your new proposed automation process, and you might find an anonymous death threat in your mailbox.

Bring in the asset owners and something different begins to happen.

When it comes to security, technical staff rarely understand the value of corporate data, or the relationship between uptime and profit, according the several CISOs I’ve interviewed this year. And, they’re interest (probably driven by the need to make money) tends to be self serving (See Jack Eckerd’s book, Why America Doesn’t Work).

Tell executives their systems are likely infected with software, giving hackers the ability to listen in on private meetings, watch them in their office or bedroom, read their email (including personal mail), and track their whereabouts, and you’ll get a response similar to that of a home owner waking up to their fire alarm. That same bot detection among IT folks will call for some patching next week, and perhaps an AV product review.

The Underestimated Power of Free

But what happens when you show up and the asset owner is suddenly not available?

If you’ve charged $100K for this assessment, you’re in good shape. Meet, sell hard, and find a way back to the asset owners…you owe them the deliverable.

However, if you’ve conducted your assessment pro bono, you’re also in good shape!

As a free service, you control the deal.  You don’t owe them anything. And since you’re liable for what you deliver, you have the right to delay the meeting until your asset owner contacts are free. Just let them know there are urgent things they need to hear, so the sooner the better.

(Get more on why Free Assessments Are More Powerful in my book, The House & The Cloud 2nd Edition).

Your Meeting Agenda Re-Engineered to Convert

Sure, you could email executives your findings, but digital findings don’t convert. Face to face is the only way to deliver the devastating news that an attack or data loss is eminent if action is not taken.

Here’s Your Agenda:

Start with their words. You’ve interviewed them (hopefully). More importantly, you’ve spoken with both executives and the people driving the daily business (end-users). So you know how important their data is, how long they can be down, and what can’t be seen but the competition.

You also know what’s not urgent in their minds. So avoid spending time on the non-urgent, even if you think it’s urgent. (e.g. Policy).

Next, list the top priorities. Did you discover evidence of compromise? Any malware activity, or symptoms on the same, is urgent.  Note, patches, outdated systems, and EOL software are not urgent. A Failing backup solution (on the other hand) is urgent.  You’ll need to now why, and how to prove it.  Consider things you would want fixed this afternoon if you were the asset owner, and draw out the urgency.

Next, it’s time to create some vision. You know how they work and where they’re headed as a company (from the interview process). So, using their current set up, begin to pose a number of WHAT IF scenarios. This is how you create a vision – allowing the buyer to picture something they really do want.

“What if your end-users could work without ever having to guess whether or not an email was infected with malware?”

“What if, whenever someone tried to connect remotely, your network would verify who the user, check the system for malware and updated patches, etc. and only after approved, grant access?”

“What if we could take your restore time down from the estimated 5 days to the required 4 hours?”

In doing this, you’re watching for the nodding heads. Not those nodding off, but people in agreement. You want physical response / emotional response. This is your trial close. The power of trial closes is important. If you can get your audience nodding and saying yes along the way, you know, when you’re all done, they’ll keep nodding.

Finally, sell the vision – “We can get this done by the start of next month, etc.” The obvious question is, how much ($$$). Check out chapter 11 of my book, From Vendor to Advisor to see how to price this, and when to share the price.

© 2017, David Stelzl

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magHow Would Your Assessment-to-Business Conversion Rate Grow If You Had Access to This One Extremely Powerful Assessment Tool?

90% of the Assessments I Review Leave Out Asset-Owner Interviews – Leaving You (The Seller) With a Weak Deliverable and Little Justification to Remediate

In this article I’ll point you to the people you should be talking.  In addition,  I’m going to give you the exact questions and sequence to use if you plan on up-selling them on remediation steps and ongoing annuity services.

The Number One question I get when the topic of assessments comes up is, “What tools do you recommend?”  It’s a great question…however, I know what’s really being asked, and its the wrong question.

The Wrong Question to Be Asking On the Front End

“What scanner or analysis tool do your recommend?” That’s the question behind the “Tool” question. But its the wrong question.

The tool question stems from a misconception that assessments are technical iInitiatives that should be lead and delivered by technical people.

In most cases, the assessment is sold (or offered pro bono) by the seller, and then tossed over the fence to a technical team. The team may be well skilled in security concepts, network architecture, and more. But in most cases they lack business savvy.

Yet, the assessment, according to it’s first name – Risk, is by definition a measure of business risk. And it’s the asset owners (those who have true business liability) that need that measurement.

Note: Get the details on Asset Owners, gaining access and delivering value, in my book, The House & the Cloud – Almost FREE using this link.

The Question Framework

So what’s the right question? Well, it’s really an approach more than a question. The goal of the assessment (addressed in more detail here) is to move troubled customers to a remediation plan.  It’s like a cancer patient recently diagnosed. The Oncologist who fails to move most of his patients to treatment should be seen as a failure.

Is he just not communicating? Do they just not understand they are dying? Something’s wrong if the prognosis would be positive with treatment, yet the doctor is not able to move his patients to action.

THE FRAMEWORK:

In my book, The House & the Cloud (Chapter 13), I provide three key questions as a guideline.

  1. What are you trying to protect
  2. What are you relevant threats
  3. How likely are you to be able to detect and respond to an incident of pending disaster before damage is done or data lost?

These three questions provide the basis for a longer, freeform discussion with Asset Owners.

Remember, Asset Owners are those with business liability. That means these special people are responsible for business functions critical to the profitability of the business, and live primarily on the profit-center side.  Think, C-Level, VPs, Directors, and key people in key divisions of the company.

…Doctors, lawyers, CPAs, Sales Managers, R&D Management, Investment Banker, Stock Broker…people who make (or significantly contribute to) profits.  When an asset owner’s data is compromised, deleted, or corrupted, that person is in trouble.

Customers will file lawsuits, stock prices go down, brand and reputation are tarnished, and heads roll.  You won’t see the director of IT, or their one-person IT support guy in the paper tomorrow – but chances are, an Asset Owner will be front page.  A few weeks later, you’ll read they have moved on to something new, by mutual agreement…code for, FIRED!

Questions Designed to Get Answers That Matter

Using the Framework, you can then divide your interviews among  three groups. (I provide more detail in The House & The Cloud, Pg. 195ff).

THREE GROUPS TO CONSIDER:

  1. Executives
  2. Power-Users
  3. IT

The assessment process starts with executives (whenever possible). My friends on the Disaster Recovery side of the business pointed me in this direction years ago…business risk starts with understanding business leader’s care-abouts.

EXECUTIVES:

Start your analysis with questions (using the 3-part framework above) to determine what matters and how much…Your first question is, “What are you trying to protect?” It might look something like this:

  • What applications / data are most important to this business – profit, stability, growth, customer satisfaction, etc.?
  • After identifying them: How long can this system be down? (hit the important ones)…drill down…the first answer is usually wrong – No Downtime! You and I know, zero downtime is nearly impossible and exponentially expensive!  Find out where the balance of cost and availability sit. – Think, Maximum Tolerable Downtime.
  • How about data loss? “Can you afford to lose any data – if so, how much?” This is a Restore Point Objective question, but stick with business language. Explain how data is lost (Ransomware, disk crash, corruption, etc.)
  • What are you most concerned about protecting against? There are three pillars of security to consider. Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability. It might be one of these, or all three might be important. Make sure you know how the executive sees it.

Next, Move to question 2: What are your most relevant threats?” Again, you’re talking to an executive, so keep it at a business leader level. One bad question (technical in nature) could land you a demotion back to IT!

  • Who is allowed to see this data? Who can’t see it?
  • Who would want this data?
  • What happens if this data gets out (in the hands of other governments, competitors, the public, etc.?) – Speaking of impact here.
  • What concerns you most? Examples might be, data theft, downtime (from what?), loss of access (for instance, ransomware), etc.  What about soft costs such as loss of customer trust?

Finally, a simple question, “How would you know if your data were under attack, or on the verge of any disaster we’ve mentioned above? Would you know in time to stop it from happening?”

Expect executives to say, “I hope so, but don’t really know.”

POWER-USERS/KNOWLEDGE WORKERS

A similar line of questioning would be used with this group, with the addition of questions that reveal the lifecycle of their data.

More than one interview is desirable here.  You’ll want to talk to key department managers as well as those who create and use data to conduct business.

In a small business, this may involve 2 or 3. In a larger firm, make sure you build in adequate funding to visit 5 to 10, or more, depending on the size and complexity of the organization.

Discover their data flow.

Workflow means, understanding who is creating data, using data, and how it travels, is stored, archived, and finally deleted.  You’ll want to know who interacts with data inside and outside (customers / suppliers), and what kinds of access different groups should have.

Discover business climate.

In addition to workflow, you’ll want to know about any upcoming M&A activities, pending layoffs, volatile terminations, R&D announcements, etc. These all affect a company’s security posture.

WITHOUT this level of insight into the organization, moving forward to evaluate risk is nearly IMPOSSIBLE. True risk has everything to do with how workers create and treat data.

At this point I would recommend using a quiz – formal questions with scoring, to see how well-informed these users are when it comes to securing their most precious assets.

Completing the Process

The rest of this assessment deserves it’s own article…In short, your next step is to evaluate the data coming from your interviews, with security practices in mind.

Hold and internal meeting to ask your team – “What would need to be true in this company to keep their data secure at the levels identified by asset owners?”

With a list like this in hand, it is then easy to go into the IT areas and investigate. You now know exactly what you are looking for…

You can find out more on the consultative discovery process in my book, From Vendor to Adviser….

© David Stelzl, 2017

 

group-predator-fishes-hierarchy-fish-dominate-eat_121-73335Who Will Dominate the Future of Assessments? Security Experts or Business Risk Advisors?

Scope (what’s covered) has everything to do with differentiating the Security Assessment Sale.

In case you missed Part I , Read it Here:

The One Thing That Set My Client’s Assessment Apart From 13 Competitive Quotes

I’ve been writing a series of articles on risk assessments over the past couple of months. If you’re in the security business (or trying to break in on this growing cash cow) it’s time to get on board with how assessments work; how they’re sold, what they’re for, how to get them read, and how to make them work for you inside the accounts you sell to.

In Part I, I covered Differentiating Yourself in the Sales Call. (Note: if you’re looking for a technical read, this is not it…

So, next, let’s turn to the scope, and how what you cover in your engagement has a lot to do with who buys it and who reads it.  

If you want to grow your business, keep reading – the assessment is the best way  (and one of the only ways) to get engaged with decision makers (the people writing the checks).

Your Client Is Wrong About Scope 97% Of The Time 

I hear it all the time, “The client is always right.” No they’re not!!! Especially when it comes to security.

Remember (See my book, The House & The Cloud) your IT contacts are not liable. And your asset-owner contacts (who are liable) have very little understanding when it comes to security.

So don’t let the client dictate the scope.

In short, you can’t simply respond to an RFP and come up with a meaningful assessment project (I discuss RFP responses in detail in my book, From Vendor to Adviser).

Getting The Scope Right

When I bring up, Assessment. The first question I get is, which tools (scanners) do you recommend? I’ll cover the actual assessment process in a future article. But for now, set tools/scanners, etc. aside. There’s something far more important here to consider…

The typical approach to assessing risk is, Inside/Outside. But looking inside (trusted), and then out, is wrong thinking…

The truth is, your client doesn’t have and inside or outside anymore. Sure, your dream client has a perimeter, but half the office is on the road or working at home. They’re all outside on their mobile devices. Chances are these knowledge workers are going back and forth between personal (Facebook and shopping) and business, and on  breaks their kids are playing Counter Strike or World of Warcraft (or surfing porn and gambling sites).

(And then there’s the 75% of employees who admit they steal from their employers – all inside…WSJ)

Wrong Thinking

Every paid assessment should cover perimeter devices, end nodes, and network architecture/segmentation & configuration. The obvious, so I won’t elaborate.

Yet, when I read a scope document, and it breaks the assessment down into: Internal, External, Network, Perimeter, and Servers/Storage…I get concerned.

This infrastructure-centric approach is for the super-techies, not business leaders.

I can already imagine the deliverable with it’s endless tables and network diagrams. The Red, Yellow, Green light ratings that appear on every assessment. If you’re looking to differentiate yourself, this won’t do it.

Price will be the deciding factor!!!

Rethinking Your Scope – Make It Attractive to Business Leaders

The business people (Asset Owners) are the ones who will be writing this check. So, what is it they need? In my book, The House & The Cloud I spell out exactly what the board is looking for (see page 195). It’s restated in Selling Assessments Part I.

This type of deliverable requires a different approach. The final outcome is a measure of risk (illustrated in the Impact vs. Likelihood Chart). impact-v-likeihood

START HERE – DIGITAL ASSETS: Think like a Disaster Recovery Specialist…

Where is the data? Which of these assets are most important, and what can’t they do without?

It’s a fact that most companies have no idea where their data actually is, or who has access to it. When people travel, work from home, or use cloud apps, knowing gets even harder. Ad-hoc data is everywhere.

Tools such as those provided by RiskIQ are designed to find data. In some cases that data is sitting on someone else’s server (such as a competitor or in a darknet chat room, for sale).

Digital assets, not hardware infrastructure, is what assessing risk is all about. So Consider the following:

ACCESS CONTROL – ACCESS TO DIGITAL ASSETS: People(and now robots) access data. Behind every data breach is a person. Some people have access, so they’re authorized. But not all authorized people are doing things they’re authorized to do.

Does your assessment include the people inside the organization? It should. Remember, “75% of internal workers admit they steel from their employer (as referenced earlier)”.

PEOPLE: Given all that’s just been said, be sure to include interviews (more details on this in my book, The House & The Cloud pg. 196).

DATA ASSET TRANSMISSION & STORAGE: Once you know where the data is, you want to know who accesses it, from where, when, and why. Data transmission and storage is part of a company’s workflow. So include in your scope, an analysis of assets as follows:

  • Creation: Understanding who is creating assets, when, and where is important. Most end-users don’t see their data as valuable or desirable outside their department or work function (this is true even when it comes to medical data). More importantly, they fail to realize how much data they are actually creating, and how data aggregation and deep machine learning can extrapolate and derive all kinds of intelligence from their daily activities.
  • Application: Data is then used by various applications, requiring transmission between applications, people, cloud services, etc. Are these application secure? Who has access, and who controls that data when applications are hosted in another country?
  • Transmission: This includes all network, wireless (including bluetooth, etc.). Looking at transmission has to do with traffic and protocols. So include traffic analysis – what protocols are found? (e.g. Does IRC Chat traffic belong on this network? Probably not. Did you look for it?).
  • Storage: All data gets stored at some point – even if it’s just in memory. Did you know copy machines store images of everything (and then those leased machines get placed in new businesses as your client upgrades)? And then there’s personal devices, personal email accounts, and the list goes on…are these considered part of the scope?
  • Archival: Data retention policies are key here. Is this data encrypted and does it get deleted at some point (according to policy)? A subpoena at the wrong time, right after an unscheduled deletion, could raise some eyebrows. Are cloud service providers storing this data locally, or is it international – under some other country’s privacy laws? Who owns that data? What if the cloud provider goes out of business or is acquired?
  • Destruction: Then there’s data disposal. Do the end-users understand the difference between hitting the delete key and deleting a file? In most cases, no!

TRUE SECURITY (ALL THREE ASPECTS): Security can be looked at several ways. The CISSP ISC2.ORG common body of knowledge looks at 7 (and this varies over time) major disciplines. Most security professionals recognized three pillars:

  1. Confidentiality
  2. Integrity
  3. Availability

All three should be considered in the scope. I’ll provide more detail on approach in a future writing…but be sure to cover all three.

SOCIAL ENGINEERING: Social engineering is part of just about every cybercrime incident (probably all of them). However, it’s rarely part of the assessment. Again, go back to the purpose – identifying risk. The amount of risk a company has, has a lot to do with how susceptible it’s end-users are to a ruse.

Testing them is one way to uncover weaknesses – such as an email phishing test. In any case, some thought should be given to their current security awareness program, policy (covered below), and security culture.

POLICY: I’ve heard security experts say, all security breaches are the result of some policy not being followed, or not existing. I don’t know if that’s always true, but it does carry some weight.

Most policies are written to satisfy some compliance officer, not guide the daily activities of end-users, who create, use, and store digital assets all day long. Include a review, not only of the written policy, but how it’s used and enforced.

WHAT ABOUT AUDITS: This is not an audit, so don’t treat it like one. Audits are about being compliant (get your compliance offering going with HIPAA here) against some standard or law. They don’t measure risk.

So take time to educate your buyer on the difference. The goal should be to comply with the law, and then make sure things are secure. One does not satisfy the other.

Reference an Approach (NIST)

Finally, security can be differently by different people, so just what does it mean to be secure? Or to assess risk?

Having certifications such as the CISSP (ISC2.ORG) or GIAC (SANS.ORG) can go a long way in proving to your buyer that you understand security.

Security engineers are not required to have their PE or Engineering Certificate, or be authorized by a board in the way doctors or lawyers are.  While I am not in favor of more big government oversight (like what we’re seeing in the ever-frustrating world of healthcare), pointing to a standard or framework (such as NIST) is powerful when selling.

Most sales people (your competition) are not going to be able to articulate what standards/frameworks (such as NIST) mean. So take some time and educate yourself on what I call, The Wall Street Journal Version of NIST (or whatever standard your firm will follow.) You can check out my recent article on Understanding NIST here. (CLICK).

And the Winner Is…

Do you want to win your next sales opportunity????

Assessments open doors and allow you to prove your value…however,…

Assessing Risk is a business function. Like Disaster Recovery/ Business Impact Analysis (which are really just one of the security disciplines) it is the executive team that needs an understanding of their exposure and impact/likelihood…the odds they’ll suffer a loss.

And this explains why high-end consulting firms like PwC and KPMG have long been welcomed in the board room, while resellers and most hardware manufactures continue to hit the down button when getting on the elevator.

© 2017, David Stelzl

P.S. Get the entire security sales approach here (The House & The Cloud) – the only book out there with a clear methodology for selling high-margin security business.

 

 

 

2017-03-03_13-54-13NIST Framework: You’ve Heard It, Lot’s of People Refer to It, But Do You Know What the NIST Security Framework is…

If forced to… (sales person to client) could you explain what the NIST Security Framework is?

NIST is important to the Assessment process as it gives you an easy reference point from which to assess and define risk. In a sales situation, the customer (if they have any knowledge at all) should be asking you how you approach assessments.

How will you answer?

If you’ve read my book, The House & The Cloud, You already know most of the NIST Security Framework…

(I wrote version one of The House & The Cloud in 2007, so you know I wasn’t just copying NIST – it’s a 2014 publication – of course I’m not claiming to be the author of NIST either).

Either way, it’s important to know NIST if you’re going to talk security.  So here’s the simple “sales person level” overview…

Notice the outline below. There are 5 major components. You’ll remember from The House & The Cloud, PDR – Protection, Detection, Response (Chapter 13)…NIST simply adds IDENTIFY (on the front end) and RECOVER (on the back end).

2017-03-03_07-23-01

In my 2007 book (updated in 2015), I develop The IDENTIFY aspect in more detail (just under a different heading – the Three Important Questions You Should Be Asking Asset Owners). – See Chapter 13, The Three Questions.

  • What are you trying to protect?
  • What are your relevant threats?
  • How likely are you to be able to detect and respond before damage is done?

These three questions provide a clear understanding of just how asset owners (and IT) view their data, their threats, and their current approach to security. In most cases they have no idea that certain digital assets even exist, and chances are, IT cannot define their firm’s most pressing threats.

PDR – The Core of NIST, But Selling It Requires Strategy

Understanding PDR. 

The House & The Cloud is a sales training book, not an SE’s Handbook. So use NIST as the foundation for your security approach to provide credibility in the sales process.  Your client/prospect won’t know my name, but they can Google NIST.

It’s not necessary for you, the sales person) to be fluent in security architecture and the various approaches to remediate risk.

But getting buyers to part with money for NIST is a hard hill to climb.  Chapter 13 of The House & Cloud provides the science behind the marketing approach. In my presentation (the one outlined in chapter 13) I first must break the preconception that my prospect has security “Covered”.

The conversion happens when the client sees their investment tied to column ONE – the NIST protection column (as is explained in The House & Cloud). Protection alone (keeping people out) won’t stop hackers…but until the client sees the truth (and admits their mistake) they won’t move forward.

If you want to be the Trusted Advisor, you must be TRUSTED, and ABLE TO ADVISE…and that means you client must first admit they need advice!

The House & the Cloud solves the problem of how to explain what security should look like, while getting the prospect to admit they have it wrong (Assuming they do).

Finally -Recovery…As in Disaster Recovery

My response calls for Realtime Response…I make the point (in The House & Cloud book) that faster response is needed – even realtime response to stop the threat before harm is done.

In other words, if I could somehow stop the ransomware before my data gets encrypted – I would be a lot better off.

However, stopping disasters is not always possible…and so the Disaster Recovery Plan is essential…developed, documented, and tested regularly. This last component needs work, especially in the small/medium business markets…

Disaster Recovery offers another great opportunity for resellers in the IT Management / MSP business! (And I’m talking about a lot more than just Backup and Recovery Services).

Check out this short NIST video from Rapid 7 for the overview…(Thanks Rapid 7, this clears up a lot of confusion).

© 2017, David Stelzl