Facing Challenges in the Cyber Security Industry 

This post was written by: Daisy Steel

The Cyber Security industry faces challenges on a daily basis due to the nature of its work. However, its challenges aren’t just security threats. On Episode 24 of The Cyber Security Matters Podcast we were joined by Michele Chubirka, a Cloud Security Advocate at Google, to talk about the wider challenges in the industry. Michelle has led a remarkable two-decade career in cyber security and has a background as a cloud native expert, giving her a wealth of insights into the space. Here’s what she shared with us: 

“Information security can be a struggle. There’s something called witnessing windows or common shock, which is when we see the small violence and violation that happens in our day to day lives. Well, that’s information security to a tee. You have the big breaches and traumatic events – you’re reading about it now with the movement hacks, ransomware, etc. – but every day you experience the vulnerabilities in your organisation. You report on them, saying ‘Hey, you have these vulnerabilities and they don’t get remediated’, and the solution technically seems very simple, but it’s really an adaptive challenge because it has a lot of dependencies and unpredictable human beings are involved. 

A lot of security people experience burnout after a while, because you want to do the right things, but there’s a social issue where people don’t or won’t collaborate well enough to solve the problem. Cyber Security is a challenging field because people are drawn to doing technical things and being engineers, but then find out that they have to work with people, which is a very different skill set. When I started, teams were super small and you could solve a problem end to end yourself. That’s not the case anymore. Now you have huge teams of hundreds of people working on a single application. Now you have to worry about getting people to talk to each other. You have to resolve conflict. 

I wish somebody had taught me to improve my people skills as well as focussing on my technical skills in my professional development. The social science that I’m studying is restorative practices and restorative justice, which is about building human capital or social capital by finding ways to repair harm, restore relationships and build community. If our organisations and companies aren’t communities, we’re going to struggle to build a truly secure cyber environment. 

The problem is that people are really attached to this idea of security being like law enforcement or a military framework. We think of threats as attackers, and there’s a lot of accepted victim shaming. When something happens within an organisation and the bad guys leave, you’ve got to clean up and recover from the trauma of what happened. That’s when the blame shifts. People start asking ‘Who can we blame internally for this problem?’ Then you get some victim-perpetrator oscillation where there’s a blaming game. Then the victims are being held to account as perpetrators because they didn’t secure their systems or they didn’t do the things that you asked them to do. That’s not helpful. 

There are a lot of reasons why developers don’t always write secure code or update their dependencies. Sometimes the systems that security people put in place are not friendly or easily consumable. Developers may be under really tight timelines and they’ve got way too much on their plates, so how much is really their fault? There are often swirling, interpersonal, conflict-ridden situations that create anger and resentment, because security professionals are doing their best but they feel like they can’t make enough change. This is exactly what happens when you’re faced with these witnessing windows, where people are disempowered but aware of what’s happening. When you’re in that situation, you know what the problem is but you can’t change it, the results are stress and eventual burnout. 

That’s really the problem with information security right now. People are building great technologies and there are new techniques coming out every year, but the attacks only get worse, and the job seems to get harder. So what are we doing? I think the reason that the situation is the way it is is because we’re having people problems – it’s not simply a technology problem. 

To learn more about the challenges facing the Cyber Security industry, tune into The Cyber Security Matters Podcast here

We sit down regularly with some of the biggest names in our industry, we dedicate our podcast to the stories of leaders in the technologies industries that bring us closer together. Follow the link here to see some of our latest episodes and don’t forget to subscribe.     

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