Embracing the Absurd: Finding Freedom in Cyber Security 

by | Jul 3, 2024

Life can be overwhelming. When you’re young, change is exciting, but as we grow older, it often brings uncertainty. In cyber security, our quest for certainty mirrors Albert Camus’ philosophy of the absurd. Let me break it down for you: we’re bombarded with CVEs and vulnerabilities, constant scans and assessments, and countless fixes to apply. Yes, vulnerability knowledge is everywhere, but without context, it’s just noise. What does it mean for me? Am I exposed? Am I at risk? The absurdity deepens when you realize how hard it is to act on this knowledge, often because of bureaucratic barriers. 

We’re stuck in a Sisyphean cycle—endlessly rolling the boulder of vulnerability management uphill, only to have it roll back down with each new scan or assessment. The absurdity lies in our relentless pursuit of certainty amidst countless vulnerabilities and exposures. 

The Absurdity of Endless Vulnerability Management 

In cyber security, the quest for certainty is an endless and often frustrating journey. Every day, security teams are inundated with new vulnerabilities, security alerts, and threats. CVEs and other forms of exposure pile up, each one demanding attention. The information overload can be paralyzing, and without the right context, it becomes nearly impossible to prioritize what truly matters. 

If that is not enough, the bureaucratic barriers within organizations exacerbate the problem. Different teams may handle vulnerability management, threat intelligence, and incident response, often working in silos. This fragmentation leads to delays in decision-making and action, leaving the organization exposed to risks despite having ample knowledge of potential threats. 

The Sisyphean Struggle 

Albert Camus used the myth of Sisyphus to illustrate the human condition’s inherent absurdity. In the myth, Sisyphus is condemned to roll a boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down each time he nears the summit. This endless cycle is a powerful metaphor for the struggle faced by cyber security professionals. 

Each scan or assessment feels like pushing the boulder uphill. Vulnerabilities are identified, prioritized, and remediated, yet the next scan reveals a new set of issues. The cycle repeats, fostering a sense of futility and frustration. The pursuit of perfect security, much like Sisyphus’ quest to reach the summit, seems destined for perpetual failure. 

Embracing the Absurd 

But there is hope. Camus suggests that we can find meaning in the struggle itself. By living with full awareness of the absurdity and embracing the freedom it offers, we can transform our approach to cyber security. This means acknowledging the chaos and focusing on decisive actions rather than being paralyzed by the pursuit of impossible certainty. 

The key is to shift from endless investigations and prioritizations to understanding what truly needs to be solved. Leveraging automation and advanced threat intelligence allows us to move from a reactive to a proactive stance. It’s not about eliminating all vulnerabilities—an impossible task—but about mitigating risks effectively and efficiently. 

Leveraging Automation and Advanced Threat Intelligence 

Automation is a game-changer in the fight against cyber threats. By automating repetitive and time-consuming tasks, security teams can free up valuable resources to focus on more strategic activities. Automation can handle tasks such as vulnerability scanning, initial triage of alerts, and even some aspects of remediation. 

Advanced threat intelligence provides the context needed to make informed decisions. It enriches vulnerability data with information about exploitability, the likelihood of attack, and potential impact. This allows security teams to prioritize vulnerabilities based on the actual risk they pose to the organization, rather than just their severity score. 

Shifting the Focus to Decisive Actions 

To break free from the Sisyphean cycle, we must shift our focus from seeking certainty to taking decisive actions. This means moving beyond merely identifying vulnerabilities to actively remediating and mitigating them. Here are some strategies to achieve this: 

  • Integrate and Mobilize Resources: Recognize the resources you have and integrate them into your overall strategy. Use automation to handle routine tasks and free up your team for more complex problem-solving. Mobilize remediation efforts across security teams and tools to ensure a coordinated and efficient response. 
  • Prioritize Based on Business Impact: Not all vulnerabilities are created equal. Prioritize remediation efforts based on the potential impact on your business. Consider factors such as the criticality of affected systems, the exploitability of the vulnerability, and the potential damage from an exploit. This approach ensures that your efforts are focused where they matter most. 
  • Embrace Continuous Improvement: Security is not a one-time effort but a continuous journey. Embrace the philosophy of continuous improvement by regularly reviewing and refining your processes. Use lessons learned from past incidents to enhance your defenses and stay ahead of emerging threats. 
  • Foster Collaboration: Break down silos within your organization and foster a culture of collaboration. Encourage open communication and information sharing between different teams. This collaborative approach accelerates decision-making and ensures a more comprehensive response to threats. 
  • Leverage Threat Intelligence Sharing: Engage in threat intelligence sharing with industry peers and trusted partners. Sharing intelligence about new threats and attack vectors helps create a collective defense against cyber adversaries. By pooling resources and knowledge, you can stay ahead of emerging threats and improve your overall security posture. 

In cyber security, as in life, the pursuit of certainty can often feel absurd. The constant influx of vulnerabilities and the bureaucratic barriers within organizations make it challenging to achieve a state of perfect security. However, by embracing the absurdity and focusing on decisive actions, we can find meaning and effectiveness in our efforts. 

Albert Camus’ philosophy teaches us to acknowledge the chaos and use the freedom it offers to act. By leveraging automation and advanced threat intelligence, integrating and mobilizing resources, and prioritizing based on business impact, we can transform our Sisyphean struggle into a journey of continuous improvement. Each step forward counts when we integrate all the tools at our disposal and mobilize remediation efforts across security teams and tools. 

In the end, it’s not about achieving impossible certainty but about making each move matter. By focusing on what truly needs to be solved and embracing our freedom to act, we can enhance our security posture and navigate the complexities of cyber security with confidence and resilience. 

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