by CIO Staff

Security Crisis? It Pays to Keep Your Cool, Expert Says

Mar 01, 20072 mins

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Security managers have to keep their cool and clearly communicate with chief information officers (CIOs) during a crisis affecting company networks, a top security official with Microsoft said Wednesday.

Otherwise, trying to educate CIOs in a panic mode will complicate how an attack is countered, said Greg Galford, Microsoft security architect, who gave a presentation at the EuSecWest 2007 security conference in London.

Galford was a technical lead during a massive attack on Microsoft’s network in 2000 that prompted the company to make many changes to its networks and its response approach. He now works with Microsoft’s Security Response Center, which handles new vulnerabilities and exploits affecting the company’s software.

The hacking attack in 2000 wasn’t a huge surprise, since Microsoft was using much of its own newly developed software that had security faults, Galford said. At the time, the company wasn’t nearly as vigilant as it is now about security, he said.

Microsoft had a huge web of insecure connections leading to its corporate network, including employees who worked from home and connections security officials were unaware even existed, Galford said.

The company also mistakenly made public much information on how its own corporate networks were constructed, which likely aided hackers. One network engineer had even made most of the information on his hard drive available over the Internet, he said.

“We shot ourselves in the foot,” Galford said.

During its response, Microsoft learned hard lessons in how to communicate developments up the chain of command. Technical people have to be separated from management. CIOs need to be told regularly when they will be briefed again after receiving an update, Galford said.

“We had executives coming down to the offices of people that were doing the actual technical work,” Galford said.

Ideally, management should be briefed before a crisis so it knows how the response will proceed, Galford said. Also, security managers need to know how to communicate in nontechnical terms for CIOs who may not have the same background, he said.

CIOs “are always worried about what’s going on,” Galford said.

-Jeremy Kirk, IDG News Service (London Bureau)