Reasons why enterprise networking and security roles must stay separate

fightingThe illustrious Shon Harris has stated in her latest article for that:

Not only should the networking group and security group have distinct and clearly defined tasks and responsibilities, but they should also have separate chains of command.

which I agree with completely. Her next comment, however, is another story:

Problems can occur when sharing the same chain of command. For instance, let’s say someone in security informs a network administrator that there is an unsafe rule set on the firewall. This traffic setting, though, may have been implemented by the network administrator to support a business need or a user’s particular preference. There is a chance then that the administrator may rank the network concerns more of a priority than the security issue and ignore the information.

This sounds like a documentation or process failure to me and not one related to the sharing of the same chain of command. If the rule is required to fulfill a business requirement then it should be documented as such and made available in times of need (like for auditing purposes).

Her final point suggests introducing an intermediary, in the form of a security engineer, to help open the communications channels between the two groups:

The network lab manager and the CSO should perform their duties separately. If the CSO needs help, then a security engineer should be hired to properly arrange the responsibilities.

I’m not sure if this is the right approach or not. Hiring a subordinate to manage the channels between two groups may result in a power play for the engineers favor. Also, there is nothing in the article suggesting to whom this security engineer would report, which may cause even more internal conflict between the two groups.

A better suggestion might be to hire an experienced security project manager who has experience in both networking and security. This person could have a dotted-line to both the CSO and network lab manager for these types of issues and could report directly to the COO to eliminate the aforementioned conflicts.

One final thought…

If these two groups cannot work together during the course of a regular business day what hope do they have of handling an incident when it occurs in a timely and organized manner?

P.S. Hopefully the ‘security gods’ don’t strike me down for crossing Shon Harris…love your book…

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