Wanna motivate staff to be more secure? Don't bother bribing 'em

Also, don't get the BOFH to publicly smack them with a LART

Usenix Enigma It's frustrating getting users to keep information and systems secure on a daily basis. However, don't try any smart gimmicks – particularly offering wedges of cash or other prizes for good behavior.

It doesn't work. Quite the opposite, it can make things worse.

Paying out a bonus to those who make few or zero security mistakes ultimately demotivates staff, Masha Sedova, cofounder of Elevate security, told Usenix's Enigma 2018 security conference in California on Tuesday.

This is, in part, because once an incentive – especially a financial one – is dangled as a carrot, it's usually never substantial enough to warrant the extra effort required to follow security best practices. Thus, most people don't bother at all to meet the standard, reducing overall security.

Play nice

Another, er, motivational technique – naming and shaming of employees by the BOFH – doesn’t work either. Sedova said this massively demotivates staff. Instead, IT security teams need to be more positive with users. And by positive, she meant that workers should be praised for good behavior, and be given better tools to tackle threats to the network.

Sedova said that research, and her experience, shows that around 20 per cent of the workforce are very motivated to secure their systems. Around 70 per cent are ambivalent about it and will use security if it’s easy enough, but 10 per cent won’t touch security at all – and in the latter case, naming and shaming may be the only option.

During the Q&A after Sedova's talk, a Facebook engineer in the audience said that the web giant had, as a trial, deployed a button in its internal email system that staffers could press to easily report any message thought to be phishing or packed with malware.

On one level, it worked: the security team saw a 350 per cent increase in dodgy email reports. The problem is most of them were false positives, creating more work for the network defenders. That’s an issue, Sedova said, but the alternative is that too little gets reported.

Ultimately, the right tools and the right level of encouragement and praise is needed to boost corporate computer security, not public reprimands, she said.

Five-factor authentication

Two-factor authentication is seen by some as a bit of a gimmick, a faff, or a tool for the paranoid, even though it's pretty good at stopping unauthorized access to work and personal accounts.

With the help of Facebook, Sauvik Das, an assistant professor of interactive computing at Georgia Tech in the USA, and his team polled a random sample of 1.5 million FB users to find how these netizens preferred to secure their profiles on the social network.

Das presented his findings in a separate Enigma conference session, and revealed that a popular alternative to traditional two-factor authentication is Facebook's trusted contacts functionality. This allows peeps to choose three to five close friends who can green-light stuff like password reset requests. For instance, if someone can't login to the website – whether because they forgot their password or their account is being hijacked – their trusted mates can get together and confirm the user is the legit account owner.

The research also revealed that Facebook users are more concerned about the security of their friends and family than they are about their own accounts. This means it should be possible to make security awareness spread in a viral way. "Reminding family about security techniques can be very effective in changing behavior," Das said. "But it has limitations – warn people too often and you're seen as a nag." ®

Similar topics

Other stories you might like

  • Cheers ransomware hits VMware ESXi systems
    Now we can say extortionware has jumped the shark

    Another ransomware strain is targeting VMware ESXi servers, which have been the focus of extortionists and other miscreants in recent months.

    ESXi, a bare-metal hypervisor used by a broad range of organizations throughout the world, has become the target of such ransomware families as LockBit, Hive, and RansomEXX. The ubiquitous use of the technology, and the size of some companies that use it has made it an efficient way for crooks to infect large numbers of virtualized systems and connected devices and equipment, according to researchers with Trend Micro.

    "ESXi is widely used in enterprise settings for server virtualization," Trend Micro noted in a write-up this week. "It is therefore a popular target for ransomware attacks … Compromising ESXi servers has been a scheme used by some notorious cybercriminal groups because it is a means to swiftly spread the ransomware to many devices."

    Continue reading
  • Twitter founder Dorsey beats hasty retweet from the board
    As shareholders sue the social network amid Elon Musk's takeover scramble

    Twitter has officially entered the post-Dorsey age: its founder and two-time CEO's board term expired Wednesday, marking the first time the social media company hasn't had him around in some capacity.

    Jack Dorsey announced his resignation as Twitter chief exec in November 2021, and passed the baton to Parag Agrawal while remaining on the board. Now that board term has ended, and Dorsey has stepped down as expected. Agrawal has taken Dorsey's board seat; Salesforce co-CEO Bret Taylor has assumed the role of Twitter's board chair. 

    In his resignation announcement, Dorsey – who co-founded and is CEO of Block (formerly Square) – said having founders leading the companies they created can be severely limiting for an organization and can serve as a single point of failure. "I believe it's critical a company can stand on its own, free of its founder's influence or direction," Dorsey said. He didn't respond to a request for further comment today. 

    Continue reading
  • Snowflake stock drops as some top customers cut usage
    You might say its valuation is melting away

    IPO darling Snowflake's share price took a beating in an already bearish market for tech stocks after filing weaker than expected financial guidance amid a slowdown in orders from some of its largest customers.

    For its first quarter of fiscal 2023, ended April 30, Snowflake's revenue grew 85 percent year-on-year to $422.4 million. The company made an operating loss of $188.8 million, albeit down from $205.6 million a year ago.

    Although surpassing revenue expectations, the cloud-based data warehousing business saw its valuation tumble 16 percent in extended trading on Wednesday. Its stock price dived from $133 apiece to $117 in after-hours trading, and today is cruising back at $127. That stumble arrived amid a general tech stock sell-off some observers said was overdue.

    Continue reading
  • Amazon investors nuke proposed ethics overhaul and say yes to $212m CEO pay
    Workplace safety, labor organizing, sustainability and, um, wage 'fairness' all struck down in vote

    Amazon CEO Andy Jassy's first shareholder meeting was a rousing success for Amazon leadership and Jassy's bank account. But for activist investors intent on making Amazon more open and transparent, it was nothing short of a disaster.

    While actual voting results haven't been released yet, Amazon general counsel David Zapolsky told Reuters that stock owners voted down fifteen shareholder resolutions addressing topics including workplace safety, labor organizing, sustainability, and pay fairness. Amazon's board recommended voting no on all of the proposals.

    Jassy and the board scored additional victories in the form of shareholder approval for board appointments, executive compensation and a 20-for-1 stock split. Jassy's executive compensation package, which is tied to Amazon stock price and mostly delivered as stock awards over a multi-year period, was $212 million in 2021. 

    Continue reading
  • Confirmed: Broadcom, VMware agree to $61b merger
    Unless anyone out there can make a better offer. Oh, Elon?

    Broadcom has confirmed it intends to acquire VMware in a deal that looks set to be worth $61 billion, if it goes ahead: the agreement provides for a “go-shop” provision under which the virtualization giant may solicit alternative offers.

    Rumors of the proposed merger emerged earlier this week, amid much speculation, but neither of the companies was prepared to comment on the deal before today, when it was disclosed that the boards of directors of both organizations have unanimously approved the agreement.

    Michael Dell and Silver Lake investors, which own just over half of the outstanding shares in VMware between both, have apparently signed support agreements to vote in favor of the transaction, so long as the VMware board continues to recommend the proposed transaction with chip designer Broadcom.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022