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  |  Chief Security Officer & Chief Strategist at Security Mentor, Inc.

Daniel J. Lohrmann is an internationally recognized cybersecurity leader, technologist and author. During his distinguished career, Dan has served global organizations in the public and private sectors in a variety of executive leadership capacities, including enterprise-wide Chief Security Officer (CSO), Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) roles in Michigan.

Dan Lohrmann joined Security Mentor, Inc. (www.securitymentor.com) in August, 2014, and he currently serves as the Chief Security Officer (CSO) and Chief Strategist for this award-winning training company. Lohrmann is leading the development and implementation of Security Mentor’s industry-leading cyber training, consulting and workshops for end users, managers and executives in the public and private sectors. 

Daniel J. Lohrmann was Michigan's first Chief Security Officer (CSO) and Deputy Director for Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Protection from October 2011 to August 2014. Lohrmann led Michigan's development and implementation of a comprehensive security strategy for all of the state’s resources and infrastructure. His organization provided Michigan with a single entity charged with the oversight of risk management and security issues associated with Michigan assets, property, systems and networks.

Under Lohrmann’s leadership, Michigan was recognized as a global leader in cyberdefense for government - winning numerous professional awards for outstanding accomplishments. The Michigan Cyber Initiative, Michigan Cyber Range, Michigan Cyber Disruption Response Strategy, Michigan Cyber Civilian Corps, new 7x24 Security Operations Center (SOC), reinvention of end user cyber awareness training, new cybersecurity portal and Cyber Summit Conference Series were just a few of the initiatives achieved in under three years. 

Over the past decade, Lohrmann has advised the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the White House, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), numerous federal agencies, law enforcement, state and local governments, non-profits, foreign governments, local businesses, universities, churches and home users on issues ranging from personal Internet safety to defending government and business-owned technology and critical infrastructures from online attacks. 

Lohrmann is also 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, SecureWorld Expo events nationwide 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, “Public Official of the Year” by Governing magazine and “Premier 100 IT Leader” by Computerworld Magazine.

For more than a decade, Lohrmann served as a trusted advisor for the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO), the Multi-State Information Sharing & Analysis Center (MS-ISAC). He also served as an adviser on TechAmerica's Cloud Commission, and a co-chair on several National Governor’s Association (NGA) committees to enhance cybersecurity. Lohrmann was also the chairman of the board for 2008-2009 and past president (2006-2007) of the Michigan InfraGard Member's Alliance. He currently serves on the Michigan InfraGard Executive Board.

Dan represented NASCIO on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s IT Government Coordinating Council from 2006-2014. In this capacity, he assisted in the writing and editing of the National Infrastructure Protection Plans (NIPPs), sector specific plans, Cybersecurity Framework and other federal cyber documents. 

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 for best practices and for leading state and local governments in effective technology service delivery in datacenter consolidation, WiFi and mobile deployments. 

Earlier in his career, Lohrmann served as Michigan’s first Chief Information Security Officer (CISO), and the first enterprise-wide government CISO in the USA, 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 by Brazos Press, Baker Publishing Group. His second book, BYOD for You: The Guide to Bring Your Own Device to Work, was published in Kindle format in April 2013. He also wrote chapter 8 on "CIO as Protector: Our Cybersecurity Imperative," for the 2011 Public Technology Institute book, CIO Leadership for State Governments: Emerging Trends and Practices.

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 28 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 US / UK military facility. 

Lohrmann is on the advisory board for four university information assurance (IA) programs, including Norwich University, University of Detroit Mercy (UDM), Valparaiso University and Walsh College. 

He has been featured in numerous daily newspapers, radio programs, TV news, CSPAN and global media from as far away as Australia. Lohrmann writes a regular 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, securing portals and The Internet of Things.

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 Security Mentor’s official positions. 

Sample of Lohrmann Individual and Team Awards: 

  • Outstanding Information Technology Achievement in Cybersecurity – National Association of State CIOs (NASCIO) – recognized as top cybersecurity project in the nation. Michigan Cyber Training 3.0 – October 2013 
  • Executive Government Technology Award – GTRA’s GOVTek 2012 
  • Technology Leadership Award: InfoWorld  2011
  • Premier 100 IT Leader: Computerworld Magazine 2010
  • Top Doers, Dreamers and Drivers: Government Technology magazine 2009
  • Public Official of the Year: Governing magazine — November 2008
  • CSO of the Year: SC Magazine — May 2008
  • Top 25 in Security Industry: Security magazine — December 2007
  • Compass Award: CSO Magazine — March 2007
  • Information Security Executive of the Year, Central Award: Tech Exec Network - 2006