Human-computer interaction

IDF

I’ve previously written about open online courses you can take to develop your skills in user experience design.  I’ve also talked about how this knowledge can be used and abused when it comes to cyber security.

If you want to build a solid foundation in interaction design, I recommend The Encyclopedia of Human-Computer Interaction. This collection of open source textbooks cover the design of interactive products, services, software and many many more.

And while you’re on the website, check out another free and insightful book on gamification. Also on offer you’ll find free UX Courses.

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Security in mergers and acquisitions: integration

M&A 2

This blog is the second part of the discussion of security in mergers and acquisitions (M&A). I suggest to read Part 1 first, as I’m going to build on it and talk about what happens after the deal is finally signed.

Ok, it’s time to put that champagne glass down. I have bad news: closing the deal was the easy part. Now the hard work begins.

The purpose of the integration phase is to create value. More bad news: 83% of the M&A deals did not boost the shareholder value (according to KPMG global research report) and total average returns on M&A are negative (A.T. Kearney research).

All too often the root cause of these failures lies in poor integration.

There are ample opportunities to start losing the value right at the start during the handover between the deal and integration teams.

To alleviate this, I suggest identifying key resources and preparing implementation plans early in the process. Just like having an overall acquisition strategy and plan precedes the negotiation and due diligence phases, having an approach to integration is key to success. Deliverables, due dates, milestones, information flows are all need to be defined in advance. And cyber security plays a big role here.

A newly acquired company is a prime target for cyber criminals due to the magnitude of change it’s going through during the M&A process. Lack of governance, employee turnover, security vulnerabilities and many other factors can contribute to embarrassing security breaches that affect the reputation of the combined entity.

Key cyber security risks to consider:

  • Regulatory compliance liabilities and impact (e.g. GDPR fines)
  • Theft of intellectual property (data leaks, key employees leave with all the secrets, etc.)
  • Repetitional damage (unwanted media attention due to data leaks)

The focus of cyber security post-deal is on protecting the value from internal and external threats, enabling secure integration, achieving long-term security and minimising cultural impact.

This can be attained in the following ways:

  • Supporting the project team deployment (security education, secured laptops, secure remote connection, encryption, etc.)
  • Identifying and prioritising key assets, systems, people and processes
  • Assessing the security of these assets (a carefully scoped pentest might be a good idea)
  • Ensuring confidentiality, integrity and availability of these assets (backups, antivirus, firewalls, patches, etc.)
  • Establishing and controlling access
  • Supporting the rationalisation of normalisation of processes
  • Developing an approach to cyber risk management (including third-party risk)
  • Rolling out security training
  • Supporting secure migration of applications and data
  • Supporting with incident management
  • Supporting with achieving compliance with relevant laws and regulations
  • Setting up a security monitoring capability of the merged entity
  • Establishing governance
  • Developing integrated security strategy and roadmap

Different cultures, attitudes to security and varying control frameworks are among many challenges to consider. Controls are typically relaxed to allow for the integration to go faster. This is where you need to be on a look out for increased threat levels.

To address these effectively, it’s a good idea to split your efforts in two stages: interim and long-term integration.

From the cyber security perspective, during the interim phase, the aim is to assess cyber maturity across the acquired entity rather than come up with a permanent solution.

High-risk areas should be addressed first by establishing interim controls. Long-term integration efforts should be initiated in parallel, starting with development of a security strategy, governance and roadmap.

Proportionality and risk-based approach is key here when integrating the acquired company into your governance structure and control framework. Focus on what matters most and prioritise security controls to protect the value and avoid backlash.

Don’t forget that people would need to still be able to carry out their duties with minimal disruption, but’s it’s a good idea to establish who needs access to what and why.

Some things can be outside of your control, like losing key employees after deal completion due to inadequate incentive structure. While it might not be your job to design the right retention mechanisms, it’s your responsibility to protect intellectual property, as mentioned above.

Above all, cyber security efforts during the integration process should be joined up with other functions and stakeholder groups. Work closely with the Legal team to minimise potential impact of compliance-related risks, engage Procurement for third-party risk management and align with the executive team to establish the right security culture.


Security in mergers and acquisitions: conducting due diligence

M&A 1

Recently I’ve had an opportunity to support a number of high-profile mergers and acquisitions (M&A) from the cyber security perspective. Although, due to the confidentiality of these projects I won’t be able to share any details, I would like to talk about some learnings and common approaches that might be useful.

The focus of this blog will be on the due diligence process and the role of security in it. It’s written from the buyer’s perspective, but insight into this thought process can be useful if you’re selling too.

Due diligence during M&A is rarely simple, quick or 100% accurate. It aims to reduce risk for both parties involved in the transaction and identify value creation opportunities. Although it might feel brief due to the the business pressures, no amount of time will allow you to detect all the threats and identify every risk facing the business.

The main questions you would like to have clarity on from the security perspective are: “What security measures does the company have in place?” and “Are these the right measures?”

Sometimes, it feels like an art rather than a science.  But there are ways to reduce the uncertainty surrounding this process.

Jason Weinstein, former Deputy Assistant Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice, once said: “When you buy a company, you’re buying their data, and you could be buying their data-security problems.”

Security teams, however, are not always welcome during M&A activities. Why? For one thing, it takes time and costs money to involve them. They may also scare or annoy employees of the target company and can be perceived as slowing things down or, worse still, hampering the deal.

So even when security gets involved, it’s usually quite late in the process with a few days left before the deal needs to be finalised.

To make matters worse, access to the target company is often restricted and the best you can get is a (partially) filled questionnaire. Your security-related questions form a part a broader pre-deal survey, so it’s a good idea to put some thinking what you should ask and why.

A number of subject matter experts in the deal team are all scrambling for limited available time and priority is sometimes given to understanding financials, legal aspects or broader IT strategy, rather than security specifically. Cyber risks, however, should form a core part of the process.

To alleviate some of the challenges outlined above, it helps if the value of the security involvement is clearly articulated (yes, it’s your job to do that). In short, in brings additional expertise to the table, protects the negotiating position and informs senior executives about potential risks, providing recommendations on mitigating them.

To save time, I’ve developed a high-level assessment template that covers all the possible areas of interest from the cyber security perspective and helps identify key assets, systems, processes and employees, but I would never send it as is. You need to do your homework and learn as much about the company and its culture as you can using the information in the public domain.

There are paid-for services out there but Google often does the job, as many OSINT experts would argue. Assuming, of course, you know how to use it! Open source intelligence and research skills at this stage are more useful than ever. Checking the dark web to see if target’s confidential information is being sold by cybercriminals can be useful too.

After the initial research, you can now tailor the questionnaire to verify your initial thoughts. Don’t be shy to ask for evidence if you want to see their policies or latest pentest reports: there are usually secure data rooms set up to share these kinds of documents.

The aim here is to understand the target company risk profile and make the the deal team aware of the potential risks and opportunities. You can go one step further and quantify the risk, as this would help inform the value of the deal, potentially reducing the asking price to account for remediation activities during the post-deal phases. Despite the number of unknowns (believe me, it’s normal) it is also a good practice to provide recommendations.

Ask the target to disclose any known security flaws, issues and incidents. It’s probably also a good idea to reserve some funds for the remediation activities post deal. It shouldn’t be all negative; identify value creating opportunities too, if you can.

If you’re a seller, you can increase your marketability by assessing your own assets, discovering your own vulnerabilities and addressing these. Establishing processes to demonstrate compliance is a bonus. But don’t just focus on the current state, think about how your assets are going to stay so post-deal.

Congratulations! You successfully supported the business in making the right decision about this company. But the role of cyber security doesn’t end here. If the board decides to go ahead and the agreement is reached, we are moving into the post-deal stage.

Now, we need to ensure a smooth and secure integration.


Modelling SABSA architecture using ArchiMate

001

ArchiMate modelling language is one of the The Open Group enterprise architecture standards. It is aligned with TOGAF and aims to help architects (and other interested parties) understand the impact of design choices and changes.

I provide a high-level overview of this standard and the free open-source modelling tool used to describe, analyse and visualise architecture in my previous blog.

Here I would like to build on the foundation we’ve laid while discussing SABSA architecture and design case study and share and example of using the Archi tool to model security architecture using SABSA framework.

Let’s say ACME Corp asked us to help them with their security architecture. Where do we start?

As described in my previous blog, let’s establish Contextual Architecture.

1 - Contextual

Using Archi, I select Principles (can be found in Motivation section) for attributes and define composition relationship between elements (e.g. ACME Corp is composed of Cost-effective, Reputable and many other attributes that hopefully define the business).

Here and below I’ll be using a simplified example just to illustrate a point – you will have many more attributes in practice.

From reading company annual reports and talking to business stakeholders we can start identifying business drivers of ACME Corp. We can them map these business drivers to attributes. Below is an illustration of mapping a business driver Generate revenue (Driver element) to the attribute Cost-effective using Influence relation, as business drivers influence attributes.

2 - business driver t oattribute mapping

On the Conceptual architecture level we need to start defining lower level attributes. For example, Cost-effective is composed (Composition relation) of Available and Business-driven

3 - Conceptual

Remember that you can provide definitions of your attributes in the element’s properties (Main section). In this example I’m defining Available as Service should be uninterrupted. You are also encouraged to establish a measurement approach for each attribute. You can see above that Uptime is the main KPI for availability. It’s a hard measure where we monitor the percentage of time system is available compared to what is specified in the SLA.

Logical level provides an insight into what capabilities enable the attributes. In the example below, Available is realised (Realsisation relation) by Backup capability which in turn is comprised of Synchronous and Asynchronous backup capabilities (Composition relation).

4 - Logical Model

Archi tool allows us to model SABSA Physical Architecture view by describing services, events, processes, interfaces, functions and other elements of the TOGAF Technology layer.

Below is a simplified example of describing the Asynchronous backup capability.

6 - Physical model

Asynchronous backup is being realised by Backup manager application service (reaalisation relation). Backup store is a data object that is being accessed by the Backup manager (access relation).

You can be quite detailed here and that’s where Archi tool can add a lot of value. But to keep things simple, I’m going to leave it at that. You can decompose elements into services and function, group them together and even go lower describing actual technology solutions on SABSA Component architecture level.

The real question is: what do you do with all of this?

My answer is simple: visualise.

Visualiser

Archi let’s you switch into the Visualiser mode and create graphs bringing all your hard work together. Playing with depth (6 in the example above) you can analyse the architecture and ensure traceability: you can see and, more importantly, demonstrate to your business stakeholders how a particular technology solution contributes to the overall business objective.

In addition, the Validator allows you to see the elements that are orphaned, i.e. not related to any other element. You then have the ability to rectify this and introduce a relationship or discontinue the capability (otherwise, why are you paying for something that is not in use?).

If you followed the steps above, the tool, despite being free, actually does a lot of the heavy lifting for you and automatically adjusts the models and graphs if changes to the architecture are introduced.

Now it’s your turn to try out Archi for SABSA architecture. Good luck!


Cyber Security: Law and Guidance

IMG-2260

I’m proud to be one of the contributors to the newly published  Cyber Security: Law and Guidance book.

Although the primary focus of this book is on the cyber security laws and data protection, no discussion is complete without mentioning who all these measures aim to protect: the people.

I draw on my research and practical experience to present a case for the new approach to cyber security and data protection placing people in its core.

Check it out!


Internet of Toys Security

NSPCC

To support my firm’s corporate and social responsibility efforts, I volunteered to help NSPCC, a charity working in child protection, understand the Internet of Toys and its security and privacy implications.

I hope the efforts in this area will result in better policymaking and raise awareness among children and parents about the risks and threats posed by connected devices.

Toys are different from other connected devices not only because how they are normally used, but also who uses them.

For example, children may tell secrets to their toys, sharing particularly sensitive information with them. This, combined with often insufficient security considerations by the manufacturers, may be a cause for concern.

Apart from helping NSPCC in creating campaign materials and educating the staff on the threat landscape, we were able to suggest a high-level framework to assess the security of a connected toy, consisting of parental control, privacy and technology security considerations.

Read the rest of this entry »


An open source modelling toolkit for enterprise architects

archi_laptop

Telling stories is one of the best ways to get your ideas across, especially when your audience is not technical. Therefore, as an architect, you might want to communicate in a way that can be easily understood by others.

TOGAF, for example, encourages enterprise architects to develop Business Scenarios. But what if you want to represent your concepts visually? The solution might lie in using a modelling language that meets this requirement.

ArchiMate is an open standard for such a language that supports enterprise architects in the documenting and analysing of architecture. Full alignment with aforementioned TOGAF is an added bonus.

The ArchiMate mimics constructs of the English language i.e. it has a subject, an object and a verb that refer to active, passive and behavior (action) aspects respectively. It employs these constructs to model business architecture.

To illustrate this, let’s model a specific business process using ArchiMate. Similarly to the example described in one of the whitepapers, let’s consider a stock trader registering an order on the exchange as part of the overall Place Order process.

Thinking back to the English language parallel, what does this sentence tell us? In other words, who is doing what to what?

In this scenario, a Trader (subject) places (verb) the order (object).

The diagram below illustrates how this might look like when modelled in ArchiMate.

ArchiMate

‘Trader’, being an active element is modelled as Business Role, ‘Place Order’ as a behavior (action) element is represented as Business Process and the passive ‘Order’ itself is modelled as Business Object.

The relationship between elements carry meaning in ArchiMate too. In our example, Assign relation is used to model the ‘Trader’ performing the ‘Place Order’ action. Contrary, the interaction between ‘Place Order’ and ‘Order’ is modelled using Access relation to illustrate that the the Business Process creates the Business Object.

To put all of this into practice, you can use the Archi modelling toolkit. It’s free, open-source and support multiple platforms.

In fact, I used it to illustrate the scenario above, but it can do much more. For example, I talk about modelling SABSA architecture using ArchiMate in my other blog.