Skip to main content

Pragmatic Approach to Security

When dealing with security, we must be pragmatic. The resources that an organisation can dedicate to security are limited in terms of time, staff, budget, expertise, etc. Also, perfectly secure systems do not exist - accidents, attacks and penetrations will happen in the end, so plan to deal with them at the outset. Recovery after a breach must be just as much of the planning as the mitigation of the breach in the first place. We all insure our cars, hoping never to call on it, and then try desperately to avoid having any accidents, getting the car stolen or vandalized. However, in the end, a lot of us will end up claiming on the insurance at some point, no matter how careful we are. The same is true of security.



We have to see the bigger picture and align the use of resources with the company's mission. There comes a point when a small amount more security costs a lot more money, time, management effort and is much less user-friendly. Wouldn't it impact the business less if we take the hit and recover quickly and smoothly? Often the answer is yes. We have to find the optimal solution for that particular organisation. The graph above shows that as we increase the security of our system the cost associated with breaches of security comes down, as we have fewer breaches. However, this cost will never be zero, as we will always have breaches. Indeed, breaches may still cost a lot of money but, hopefully they will be few and far between. Conversely, as our security increases, the cost of our countermeasures goes up. Therefore, the total cost will decrease with more security initially, then increase again as the countermeasures become increasingly expensive for less and less improvement to security.

These curves and the overall graph will be different for each organisation. The point I'm trying to make is that we should accept that there is no perfect security, do the best job we can, given the resources allocated, and plan for how we will recover from any breaches in security, be they minor or major. The problem comes when deciding what assets should be given priority and what is the best allocation of resources for a specific organisation. This is where security risk assessments come in. For more about security assessments and risks, see my previous post.

Comments

  1. Review the data you store and assess the value, sensitivity or confidentiality by understanding what will happen if there’s a breach in your security. This will give you a clear view of the risk to your business, which will enable you to create a suitable data security policy.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular Posts

You say it's 'Security Best Practice' - prove it!

Over the last few weeks I have had many conversations and even attended presentations where people talk about 'Security Best Practices' and how we should all follow them. However, 'Best Practice' is just another way of saying 'What everyone else does!' OK, so if everyone else does it and it's the right thing to do, you should be able to prove it. The trouble is that nobody ever measures best practice - why would you? If everyone's doing it, it must be right.

Well, I don't agree with this sentiment. Don't get me wrong, many of the so-called best practices are good for most organisations, but blindly following them without thought for your specific business could cause as many problems as you solve. I see best practice like buying an off-the-peg suit - it will fit most people acceptably well if they are a fairly 'normal' size and shape. However, it will never fit as well as a tailored suit and isn't an option for those of us who are ou…

Coventry Building Society Grid Card

Coventry Building Society have recently introduced the Grid Card as a simple form of 2-factor authentication. It replaces memorable words in the login process. Now the idea is that you require something you know (i.e. your password) and something you have (i.e. the Grid Card) to log in - 2 things = 2 factors. For more about authentication see this post.

How does it work? Very simply is the answer. During the log in process, you will be asked to enter the digits at 3 co-ordinates. For example: c3, d2 and j5 would mean that you enter 5, 6 and 3 (this is the example Coventry give). Is this better than a secret word? Yes, is the short answer. How many people will choose a memorable word that someone close to them could guess? Remember, that this isn't a password as such, it is expected to be a word and a word that means something to the user. The problem is that users cannot remember lots of passwords, so remembering two would be difficult. Also, having two passwords isn't really…

Security is a mindset not a technology

I often get asked what I look for when hiring security professionals and my answer is usually that I want the right attitude first and foremost - knowledge is easy to gain and those that just collect pieces of paper should maybe think about gaining experience rather than yet more acronyms. However, it's difficult to get someone to change their mindset, so the right attitude is very important. But what is the right attitude?


Firstly, security professionals differ from developers and IT engineers in their outlook and approach, so shouldn't be lumped in with them, in my opinion. The mindset of a security professional is constantly thinking about what could go wrong (something that tends to spill over into my personal life as well, much to the annoyance of my wife). Contrast this with the mindset of a developer who is being measured on their delivery of new features. Most developers, or IT engineers, are looking at whether what they have delivered satisfies the requirements from t…