Michigan CISO Dan Lohrmann Dan Lohrmann, Chief Information Security Officer, Michigan Photo courtesy of Dan Lohrmann

A few years ago, Michigan government was hit with two computer virus outbreaks in six weeks. Both situations caused system outages, customer complaints, network slowness and more. After we recovered from the second situation, I received shocking news from my forensic team: The security incident was caused by an infected vendor laptop -- again.

Conventional wisdom in government technology circles is that IT vendors, especially big consulting firms, are secure. Most people take for granted that the "experts from out of town" will do no harm as they integrate new technology into enterprise infrastructures. In my experience, this is a bad assumption.

Many of our private-sector colleagues do a good job of putting the right people, processes and technology in place to protect critical systems. But even the best integrators make mistakes. So how do we build the right security provisions into contracts and manage our vendors well?

When I was at the National Security Agency (NSA), many courses were offered on this topic. Staff dedicated entire careers to becoming certified Systems Acquisition Managers who learned the latest vendor-management techniques. No doubt, we need more NSA procurement rigor in state and local governments.

But beyond the art of contractor and vendor management, there are certain topics that require attention that I regularly ran into as a chief information security officer. Here are five areas I recommend addressing as you build Invitations to Bid or negotiate contracts with vendors.

 

  1. Staff background checks. While checks are commonplace for criminal justice or tax systems, what about other computers that contain sensitive information? Ensure systems administrators, network engineers or others who have access across multiple programs have been vetted. Even if you require the vendor to run checks, be clear what levels of check are required. In one case, we ran a spot check and found a felony conviction that the contractor didn't know about.
  2. Build compliant solutions. Do you need to comply with the Payment Card Industry (PCI) standard or other requirements? Be specific about what legislation or certification process must be addressed. Just because a vendor offers a compliant solution doesn't mean that's what you're buying. In Michigan, some vendors asked for a contract change or additional money to make systems PCI-compliant. Often, different options are available.
  3. Remote connectivity. Many vendors offer "follow the sun" support, which means their staff in other parts of the world will access your systems to troubleshoot and fix problems. Think through this process very carefully. Who has access (see No. 1) and to which systems? Are they using two-factor authentication? (Hopefully yes.) Are you notified when people or processes change? Who's responsible and liable if things go south?
  4. Involve security staff throughout the life cycle. Do you have competent security staff involved on the project procurement team from the beginning? Building security into all aspects of the Statement of Work and including a member of the security team on the Joint Evaluation Committee will help avoid numerous problems. At least, bring in an expert security adviser when you get down to the final few vendors. Involvement of security officers during the demos or the oral phase of procurement will save time and money later. If vendor site visits are planned for an outsource contract, ensure security expertise is included.
  5. Use checklists. The National Institute of Standards and Technology offers excellent security checklists at its Computer Security Resource Center. Security requirements should be built into your contract "boilerplate" language where it makes sense.

Ensure contractors comply with the same acceptable use policies and procedures that government staff must meet. For example, what's the policy for vendor laptops entering the enterprise? Are the contractor's portable devices secure? Are laptops checked for viruses before connecting to the network?

A final thought: Gen. George S. Patton once said, "Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity." Public CIOs must ensure that security is a priority - for contractors too.

 

Read Dan Lohrmann's column from the December 2008/January 2009 issue of Public CIO, Four Government Security Mistakes to Avoid.

Dan Lohrmann Dan Lohrmann  |  Contributing Writer

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 columns here 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