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Pennsylvania CISO Fired Over Talk At RSA Conference 147

An anonymous reader writes "Pennsylvania's chief information security officer Robert Maley has been fired for publicly talking about a security incident involving the Commonwealth's online driving exam scheduling system. He apparently did not get the required approval for talking about the incident from appropriate authorities."
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Pennsylvania CISO Fired Over Talk At RSA Conference

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  • by AliasMarlowe ( 1042386 ) on Thursday March 11, 2010 @05:11PM (#31444352) Journal
    What's the story here? He blabbed on a security issue without approval, and got his ass roasted.
  • Good job... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kurokame ( 1764228 ) on Thursday March 11, 2010 @05:13PM (#31444388)
    Firing the guy will absolutely convince the public that you've fixed your security problems.
  • by DoofusOfDeath ( 636671 ) on Thursday March 11, 2010 @05:15PM (#31444416)

    What's the story here? He blabbed on a security issue without approval, and got his ass roasted.

    The same reason I don't want nuclear regulators getting fired for admitting when there was a heavy water leak into an aquifer.

  • reasonable? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DaveGod ( 703167 ) on Thursday March 11, 2010 @05:16PM (#31444438)

    Seeing as careless talk can lead to image problems and/or lawsuits (or harming your case if prosecuting them). If you're in a senior position and you talk publicly in a work-related context, you talk on behalf of the organisation whether you intend to or not. OTOH if you are "blowing the whistle" on wrongdoing, there is a specific procedure for that which offers protection.

  • by djupedal ( 584558 ) on Thursday March 11, 2010 @05:17PM (#31444470)
    The 'story' here is actually more of a question.

    If the CISO treats one rule casually, what is the dolt liable to ignore next?

    I'm guessing a list of at least primary concerns wouldn't include abuse of parking privileges...
  • by HungryHobo ( 1314109 ) on Thursday March 11, 2010 @05:18PM (#31444486)

    If this were a private company I'd be of the opinion that their internal security is their concern but this is a government office and the people who pay the bills have a right to know what's going on.

  • by DoofusOfDeath ( 636671 ) on Thursday March 11, 2010 @05:24PM (#31444582)

    Apples and oranges, one is a health risk, one isn't.

    Apples and near-apples from my perspective. Both types of problems can have negative consequences if allowed to continue due to lack of public scrutiny. And in neither problem type is there a compelling public interest in secrecy.

  • by haruchai ( 17472 ) on Thursday March 11, 2010 @05:26PM (#31444616)

    Now all your remaining security issues will fix themselves. But, don't worry, I'm sure Robert Maley will be happy to help you out - at 5 times what you were paying him.

  • Easy fix? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Shadyman ( 939863 ) on Thursday March 11, 2010 @05:32PM (#31444720) Homepage
    From TFA: Over the past 18 months to two years, the administration has cut information security budgets by close to 38%, and staff by 40%. They also put a "lockdown" on talking about cybersecurity, the source claimed.

    So instead of paying people to fix our security holes, we're just not allowed to talk about them?
  • by firewrought ( 36952 ) on Thursday March 11, 2010 @05:38PM (#31444844)

    What's the story here? He blabbed on a security issue without approval...

    The firing seems heavy-handed. Don't you want your Chief Information Security Officer participating in industry security conferences, selectively sharing the experiences of your organization with security professionals so as to help find long term solutions? Who knows... maybe he shared some sort of special classified/secret/private data that he really ought not to have, but it sounds like good old bureaucracy + control freaks at the top who think it's all about militaristic need-to-know.

  • Cluetrain... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jacks0n ( 112153 ) on Thursday March 11, 2010 @05:41PM (#31444896)

    Cluetrain Manifesto.... Dead. Slashdot Confirms.

    I'm personally not interested in what comes out of any organization's public orifice because it always looks and smells like BS.

    When they shut down their non-public orifices they become more and more useless. They lose value. real, actual dollars value.

    In a way I'm more worried about this from a public organization because they have a monopoly on governance

    and when they're doing it wrong they can keep doing it wrong a lot longer than a private company.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 11, 2010 @05:44PM (#31444926)

    I'm simply rehashing the same thing I wrote over at SC Magazine's site:

    We do not know all the facts behind the termination, but if was based primarly on his RSA appearance, that's a shame. There are so many variants of qualitative and quantitative risk assessment, that regular meetings with your peers seems to be just as critical with regards to understanding the important controls which need to be put in place. The days of leading with FUD appears to be in our rear view mirror, and building up a positive outlook in security by learning from the past and attempting to stay ahead of the curve is imperative to our support of the business or the public entity. What was the common theme with all the CISO's at RSA? Information sharing is critical and we're way behind. We don't share information, we put ourselves on "lockdown" and don't get invited to the table anymore as security professionals. We're seen as roadblocks, as negative drags on the bottom line. Something has to change or else we're going to lose ground as a country. In fact we already have.

    Sharing information with other professionals is now critical to any InfoSec career. We do need to account for privacy, so a balance must be achived. Maley may have violated a confidentiality component of his employment, but that doesn't make the spirit of what he did wrong in any way. If anything, some clear guidance on what types of information is shared behind closed doors at peer review and group meetings at RSA should be discussed. You can't vette everyone who attends the meetings, but openness is a good thing, not a bad thing. More transparency is needed across the public and private sectors. More openness is needed among security professionals. The state of PA has it wrong. Lockdown is not a way to progress forward out of this losing battle with regards to properly securing the infrastructure while allowing the inevitable growth of technology and information.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 11, 2010 @05:48PM (#31444994)

    Secret while it's a security issue until it's fixed. Public after that.

  • by Fjandr ( 66656 ) on Thursday March 11, 2010 @05:55PM (#31445094) Homepage Journal

    If the CISO treats one rule casually, what is the dolt liable to ignore next?

    This is probably one of the most specious arguments anyone ever trots out about someone breaking (or overlooking) a rule, especially in organizations known for coming up with rules for every single thought or action one engages in (e.g. a bureaucracy). Unless the incident was actually ongoing, or had the potential to risk the security or integrity of the systems it was his job to oversee, talking about a past incident germane to the topic of the conference is what people do at conferences. That's the entire point. Yes, he violated a minor rule. "Oh lordy lordy, who will he kill next?" is not really the best response to the situation.

  • by meerling ( 1487879 ) on Thursday March 11, 2010 @05:57PM (#31445116)
    Government (and bureaucracies) tendency to not fix anything like that until they have to.
    Public outcry over the situation is one way to increase the 'have to' value.
    Also, keeping problems secret has always been a major dodge for not having to deal with an issue.
  • by plover ( 150551 ) * on Thursday March 11, 2010 @06:18PM (#31445414) Homepage Journal

    There is a distinction between "acknowledgment" of an already known problem and the "announcement" of a brand new one. Hackers know about the problem already, and apparently it was widely known how to game the system, so this was only an acknowledgment. The CISO didn't reveal anything new, although it was apparently new to this particular audience.

    By making future CISOs afraid for their job, the governor has poisoned the CISO's ability to actually perform their duties.

  • by plover ( 150551 ) * on Thursday March 11, 2010 @06:21PM (#31445468) Homepage Journal

    Do you really want the taxpayers having the root password?

    I'll give them to you. There are actually two root passwords to the Constitution: "terrorism" and "child pornography". By using either password, you can bypass any of the security protections or protocols built into the document, and you can invalidate its signatures.

  • by plover ( 150551 ) * on Thursday March 11, 2010 @06:35PM (#31445660) Homepage Journal

    Compromising your own ethics for revenge is a net loss. A vengeful, spiteful CISO would have about 0.00% chance of a new job that paid anything above "volunteer" wages.

    Remember, CIO already jokingly stands for "Career Is Over." I don't think he needs to pile on "Career Is So Over" limiting moves by acting like a 13-year-old dumped by his first girlfriend.

  • by crymeph0 ( 682581 ) on Thursday March 11, 2010 @07:00PM (#31446034)

    ...He just yapped without checking.

    Which is just sloppy corporate citizenry.

    Except his employer isn't "corporate", they're a U.S. state, funded by taxpayers. As a taxpayer, I demand to know if there are security (or "configuration") holes that have been actively exploited at the institutions my taxes fund, unless the dissemination of such knowledge would hurt an ongoing police investigation. There is no mention in the story of such a request from the police, just a general indication that the police are investigating.

  • by timothy ( 36799 ) * Works for Slashdot on Thursday March 11, 2010 @07:09PM (#31446198) Journal

    Howard County, Maryland (back when I was living there -- might be many other places like this, too) decided to make the local parks "trash free." By removing the trash cans. I leave the results as an exercise for the reader ;)


  • by Kittenman ( 971447 ) on Thursday March 11, 2010 @08:01PM (#31446768)

    If I were him, I'd start spilling all the info I ever had on security for the state. No amount of money or threats would stop me.

    Tut. Not sure how it is in your part of the world but some of us sign confidentiality agreements. I've worked for the British home office, some 30 years ago. I'm still bound by the "Official Secrets Act" that I signed then.

    I'm not saying that some stories shouldn't be blabbed, but we're professionals. We do what we're paid to. If we're not happy, move on. But don't air dirty laundry. Especially not someone else's.

  • by plover ( 150551 ) * on Thursday March 11, 2010 @08:38PM (#31447162) Homepage Journal

    A whistleblower reveals secret information to right a wrong. Perhaps there's a safety issue that is going uncorrected, or an unfair pay gap, or workplace racism, or where the bodies are buried. Those are kept secret to keep costs down at the expense of human health, or to protect the criminally negligent or guilty.

    The GP said:

    If I were him, I'd start spilling all the info I ever had on security for the state. No amount of money or threats would stop me. I mean any and every item.

    There are plenty of legitimate secrets a CISO is expected to keep. Plans for upgrades that reveal current deficiencies but can't be implemented yet due to budget constraints. Ongoing operational security tasks. Or command and control structures: a list of the three key people without whom an emergency response would fail would provide a juicy target list for a serious attack. The identities of sting or honeypot operations. Those are all perfectly legitimate security items that should be kept secret.

    A whistleblower is trying to correct an inequity. A traitor provides secret information only to damage an organization. See the difference?

  • Re:reasonable? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by turbidostato ( 878842 ) on Thursday March 11, 2010 @09:46PM (#31447710)

    "You don't get given authority to say what you please, you get given authority to apply policy."

    Point being he was the CISO. He is the very one not to apply but to *create* the policy in regards to IT security incidents.

    If you don't want somebody to have such power you don't get to create the role.

  • If the CISO treats one rule casually, what is the dolt liable to ignore next?

    Not every slope is a slippery one.

To write good code is a worthy challenge, and a source of civilized delight. -- stolen and paraphrased from William Safire