For the past several years, I have had the honor of writing for Network World in "Risk and Reward." Unfortunately, that time has come to an end as I am leaving the world of independent analysts to pursue new adventures. In my last column, I'd like to explore some of my recurring themes and offer some predictions for the future.
Failing an audit sounds like the last thing any company wants to happen. But that's because audits are seen by many as the goal of a security program. In reality, audits are only the means of testing whether enforcement of security matches the policies. In the broader context, though, an audit is a means to avoid a breach by learning the lesson in a "friendly" exercise rather than in the real world. If the audit is a stress-test of your environment that helps you find the weaknesses before a real attack, you should be failing audit every now and then. After all, if you're not failing any audits there are two possible explanations:
For years, Facebook users have been clamoring for better privacy controls and clarity, while Facebook engineers oscillate between improvements and major privacy snafus. Every now and then a new wave of exasperated users cry out "That's it, I'm leaving". Up to now, users really didn't have anywhere to go after quitting, so they effectively quit the social media scene, self-ostracized (MySpace is equivalent to being exiled, perhaps worse). Now that they have somewhere else to go (Google+), Facebook is ramping up its privacy controls and seems to be taking privacy more seriously. Let the privacy competition begin!
In previous columns I have repeatedly emphasized the importance of interoperability and the danger of security fragmentation. Security is so fragmented that it is often hard to discern between hype and reality. Large security vendors try to draw you into a single-vendor closed integration package. Small vendors try to sell you the latest magic bullet, presenting what should be a feature as a whole new industry. Inevitably, you are left to cobble together disparate systems in order to get the depth of defense and layering of controls that you need.
A new week, a new rash of attacks against security vendors, email marketers and banks. It would be easy to point fingers and laugh at the irony, especially in the case of security vendors, but that would be both petty and shortsighted.
Whenever the topic of security is mentioned in the context of cloud computing, it is usually discussed as the "big barrier" to adoption. The perceived or actual lack of security in the cloud makes it impossible for businesses to make the leap into this new computing paradigm. I propose a different perspective: Security will rescue cloud computing.
When you ask IT professionals if they use cloud computing or software-as-a-service, most start by saying "no". But if you ask some follow up questions, you will quickly find out about "that one application" that is a SaaS application.
Information security was always an esoteric field but with personal computing came personal security issues, culminating in the identity theft problem that concerns even the most techno-phobic of consumers. It's about to get much worse.
A few days ago, 10 privacy commissioners from Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Israel, Ireland, The Netherlands and New Zealand wrote an open letter to Google's CEO Eric Schmidt asking for more proactive privacy protections in new applications. The commissioners are not objecting to Google's overall privacy policies, but to the way Google launches new services.
In just four days, not one but two worms targeting the iPhone have emerged. Both of the worms target the same vulnerability, a default password in the SSH server that is installed on jail-broken iPhones. While one worm is a mostly a nuisance, the second siphons personal information from the iPhone, which makes it a serious identity theft threat.
If your security model is location-centric and depends on keeping things separate, how do you respond to a disruptive technology like unified communications? This is a pattern that keeps repeating in many different areas: the security paradigm looked good until a technology comes along, changes the assumptions and reveals the inadequacy of the model.
In the movies the government has always got the best toys, the cutting-edge technology and the tightest security standards. Those who have worked on security projects within the government know that in real life government security standards and implementations can vary all across the range from quite serious to laughable.
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