By: Dr. Angela Orebaugh

On this May the 4th I can’t help but consider one of my favorite sci-fi franchises and the  many parallels between the cybersecurity world and the Star Wars universe. First, there are villains and heroes. In Star Wars Darth Vader, Jabba the Hut, Kylo Ren are villains with a variety of evil motives, while Jedi like Obi-Wan Kenobi, Luke Skywalker, and Rey do their best to thwart the villain’s attacks and defend the galaxy. In our world, cybersecurity professionals, like the Jedi, are constantly defending their networks, systems, and data from the attacks of villains such as cybercriminals, hacktivists, nation-state attackers, and scrap yard script kiddies.

Second, there are vulnerabilities. Luke Skywalker successfully exploited a vulnerability in the Death Star’s thermal exhaust port, leading to its destruction. In cybersecurity, there are many vulnerabilities, both known and unknown, that can lead to catastrophic events if exploited. Cybersecurity Jedi build layered defenses to help prevent attacks and disruptions.

Third, there are cool tools and tech. Star Wars is known for its lightsabers and blasters, but also has some important defense tools such as deflector shields, force barriers, encryption, and artificial intelligence. Cybersecurity Jedi are constantly using a variety of tools and defense technology to protect the organization’s assets. We categorize these tools  as policy, practice, and posture:

1.     Policy:  Policies create the foundation for a layered defense approach. Policies help develop a comprehensive understanding of assets, data, and risk. Cybersecurity Jedi determine what they are protecting, how critical it is, and how valuable it is to the villains.  Policies also ensure plans are in place for responding to incidents, maintaining continuity, and recovering from attacks because the villains are always out there and always attacking.

2.     Practice:  Practice includes the people, processes, and technologies that enable the protection and detection measures. Cybersecurity Jedi rely on their Padawans in training and everyone else to help ensure the organization’s security. They deploy their firewall deflector shields, create force barriers through segmentation, encrypt data at rest and in transit, and use artificial intelligence to help detect attackers. Practice builds a threat landscape awareness to manage and share information on threats across the Rebel Alliance.

3.     Posture:  Posture is an assessment of an organization’s overall strength based on security policies and practices. Defensive and offensive techniques reveal incidents and hidden threats. Cybersecurity Jedi think like the villains as they try to sneak into their own bases and test their defenses. They use their Jedi mind trick skill to train and test users for social engineering weaknesses. They check every thermal exhaust port for weaknesses that could be exploited.

Although cybersecurity Jedi don’t wield lightsabers, they do have an array of people, processes, and technology at their disposal. The combination of policy, practice, and posture creates a strong Force of protection to defend against the dark side. May the Fourth be with you!

About the Author

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Angela Orebaugh, Ph.D. is a technologist, educator, researcher, and author with a broad spectrum of expertise in information technology and security. She synergizes her 20 years of hands-on strategic and technical experiences within industry, academia, and government to advise clients on information technology and security strategy, management, and technologies.