Quick question: What do these three technology headlines have in common?

  • Global Survey: Malware Attacks Up Because of Social Media
  • 40% of Social Network Users Attacked by Malware
  • More Companies OK With Employees Using Facebook at Work

Having trouble connecting the dots? If you add to these the fact that numerous industry studies over the past decade have shown that user errors account for more than 50 percent of security incidents each year, the picture becomes a bit clearer.

Still struggling to see a connection? Top off this technology fact sheet with the recent explosion of mobile devices at home and work, and the common thread becomes even more obvious. End-user awareness training is more important than ever.

Nevertheless, it’s almost unanimous: Our awareness training has failed and is not effective. Yes, I’m talking about Michigan, but also local, state and federal governments, and even most of the private sector. (Did I miss anyone?)

Awareness Training Deficiencies

Here are some of the words and phrases I’ve heard recently that describe the vast majority of current cybertraining offered to end users: boring, long, death by PowerPoint, not relevant, not updated, a check-the-box activity, not my job, compliance based, a list of do’s and don’ts, a once-a-year mandate or simplistic. Perhaps the worst of all: “It’s a total waste of time.” 

Wow! How did we get into this mess? There are many reasons for our past failures, including a lack of budget and leadership, improper understanding of the problem, enormity of the cultural change effort, the fast-paced technology refresh or poor training offerings from industry.

Another problem is that security professionals (including me) prefer to focus on “sexier” things — like stealth threats, next-generation firewalls, hacker groups, advanced forensics training, intelligence reports, etc. We love funny cartoons that declare: “You can’t patch stupid.” Sorry colleagues, maybe the joke is on us.

Next-Generation Cyberawareness

Regardless of the explanation, one thing is now clear: The need for new, effective, enterprisewide security training is enormous. We need an urgent awareness wake-up call. What would next-generation training look like? It must be metrics-based and reduce enterprise risk over time. The training needs to be consistently updated and address outstanding audit findings. But lest we fall back into the same old traps again, let me be clear. Awareness training must be intriguing, interactive, short, monthly (or often), relevant (for both home and work PCs and mobile devices) and even fun.

No doubt, I have been told by naysayers that “cyberawareness training” and “fun” can’t be used in the same sentence. Are these concepts incompatible? I think we need to start over and learn from the new generation of educational game creators. We must break out of the old box placed around training and rethink our entire approach.

New Solutions

 At the beginning of this year, Michigan piloted some next-generation awareness training that received very positive feedback. While the cross-agency pilot group had less than 50 people and a special interest in this topic, the feedback was positive and encouraging. The need was recognized by all, and the consensus from leadership throughout government was that our current situation calls for a new carrot-and-stick approach. In practical terms, employees will be required to take awareness training, but it needs to be appealing and helpful. The testimonials after the pilot were mostly positive, with some staff saying, “It was great. This will help me at home with my kids as well.” 

As for next steps, we are issuing a request for quotes from the cybersecurity and training communities to provide us with Web-based awareness training as a service. We will be tracking metrics in a variety of technology policy areas to get key points across. Most of all, we want to change behaviors with interactive content that is memorable, relevant and fun to use.

 This new approach to awareness training won’t be easy to implement. Changing culture in a large enterprise never is. The finish line will continue to move, and we will certainly have setbacks. Nevertheless, we can’t go back to the old, failed awareness model. Employees are both our biggest asset and greatest vulnerability. We must help staff understand the positive and negative impacts of their online actions — one person at a time.

Dan Lohrmann Dan Lohrmann  |  Michigan's Chief Security Officer

Daniel J. Lohrmann became Michigan's first chief security officer (CSO) and deputy director for cybersecurity and infrastructure protection in October 2011. Lohrmann is leading Michigan's development and implementation of a comprehensive security strategy for all of the state’s resources and infrastructure. His organization is providing Michigan with a single entity charged with the oversight of risk management and security issues associated with Michigan assets, property, systems and networks.

Lohrmann is a globally recognized author and blogger on technology and security topics. His keynote speeches have been heard at worldwide events, such as GovTech in South Africa, IDC Security Roadshow in Moscow, and the RSA Conference in San Francisco. He has been honored with numerous cybersecurity and technology leadership awards, including “CSO of the Year” by SC Magazine and “Public Official of the Year” by Governing magazine.

His Michigan government security team’s mission is to:

  • establish Michigan as a global leader in cyberawareness, training and citizen safety;
  • provide state agencies and their employees with a single entity charged with the oversight of risk management and security issues associated with state of Michigan assets, property, systems and networks;
  • develop and implement a comprehensive security strategy (Michigan Cyber Initiative) for all Michigan resources and infrastructure;
  • improve efficiency within the state’s Department of Technology, Management and Budget; and
  • provide combined focus on emergency management efforts.

He currently represents the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) on the IT Government Coordinating Council that’s led by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. He also serves as an adviser on TechAmerica's Cloud Commission and the Global Cyber Roundtable.

From January 2009 until October 2011, Lohrmann served as Michigan's chief technology officer and director of infrastructure services administration. He led more than 750 technology staff and contractors in administering functions, such as technical architecture, project management, data center operations, systems integration, customer service (call) center support, PC and server administration, office automation and field services support.

Under Lohrmann’s leadership, Michigan established the award-winning Mi-Cloud data storage and hosting service, and his infrastructure team was recognized by NASCIO and others for best practices and for leading state and local governments in effective technology service delivery.

Earlier in his career, Lohrmann served as the state of Michigan's first chief information security officer (CISO) from May 2002 until January 2009. He directed Michigan's award-winning Office of Enterprise Security for almost seven years.

Lohrmann's first book, Virtual Integrity: Faithfully Navigating the Brave New Web, was published in November 2008.  Lohrmann was also the chairman of the board for 2008-2009 and past president (2006-2007) of the Michigan InfraGard Member's Alliance.

Prior to becoming Michigan's CISO, Lohrmann served as the senior technology executive for e-Michigan, where he published an award-winning academic paper titled The Michigan.gov Story — Reinventing State Government Online. He also served as director of IT and CIO for the Michigan Department of Management and Budget in the late 1990s.

Lohrmann has more than 26 years of experience in the computer industry, beginning his career with the National Security Agency. He worked for three years in England as a senior network engineer for Lockheed Martin (formerly Loral Aerospace) and for four years as a technical director for ManTech International in a U.S./UK military facility.

Lohrmann is a distinguished guest lecturer for Norwich University in the field of information assurance. He also has been a keynote speaker at IT events around the world, including numerous SecureWorld and ITEC conferences in addition to online webinars and podcasts. He has been featured in numerous daily newspapers, radio programs and magazines. Lohrmann writes a bimonthly column for Public CIO magazine on cybersecurity. He's published articles on security, technology management, cross-boundary integration, building e-government applications, cloud computing, virtualization and securing portals.

He holds a master’s degree in computer science from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Valparaiso University in Indiana.

NOTE: The postings on this blog are Dan Lohrmann's own views. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the state of Michigan's official positions.

Recent Awards:
2011 Technology Leadership Award: InfoWorld
Premier 100 IT Leader for 2010: Computerworld magazine
2009 Top Doers, Dreamers and Drivers: Government Technology magazine
Public Official of the Year: Governing magazine — November 2008
CSO of the Year: SC Magazine — April 2008
Top 25 in Security Industry: Security magazine — December 2007
Compass Award: CSO Magazine — March 2007
Information Security Executive of the Year: Central Award 2006