So I was sitting in a critical infrastructure cyber security talk earlier this week and had a small revelation.  The talk itself wasn’t all that interesting – it was another attempt to collect and identify consensus best practices for critical infrastructure security from a governance point of view – but it still led me down a path that surprised me.

The authors of the paper being presented had done interviews and other research and derived a number of principles required for critical infrastructure cyber security governance based on what they commonly heard over and over. At the talk, we had break-out sessions where they were pinging us for our thoughts on their findings.  During the session, I realized that I’d heard it all before (obviously, right? It’s a consensus paper) and was wondering why we couldn’t get past the stale “wisdom” repeated ad nauseam without effect…when it hit me: the use of their paper might be directly opposite of what they might think it is, but it’s still useful!

The thought process is as follows:

  1. Assumption: We all “agree” that cybersecurity for critical infrastructure is insufficient and we’re missing something.
  2. Assumption: The paper represented the community opinion, to date, on what needs to happen for good cyber security
  3. People are trying to improve security, but despite sporadic improvements, we haven’t made nearly as much progress as we think we should. Something is missing.

Conclusion: Whatever it is we need to do …..isn’t in that paper.  If we collect a series of best practices and community consensus on a topic where we generally consider ourselves to have failed, collecting that consensus should be used – instead of as a driver of activity – a hint at what won’t, by itself, get us where we need to be. The lists should be considered things to exclude as solutions to our unidentified sticking points, but the solutions themselves.